Serum hepatitis C virus RNA levels and liver injury in volunteer blood donors

Am J Gastroenterol. 1994 Sep;89(9):1462-6.


Objectives: Liver histology in volunteer blood donors positive for serum hepatitis C virus RNA was investigated in relation to hepatitis C virus viremia levels.

Methods: Twenty-one volunteer blood donors positive for serum hepatitis C virus RNA by polymerase chain reaction were monitored for at least 1 yr by monthly routine liver function tests and underwent liver biopsy. Liver histology findings were correlated with hepatitis C virus viremia levels assessed by a quantitative branched DNA assay.

Results: Liver histology showed the features of chronic hepatitis in 20 (95%) patients. Only one of the seven patients with persistently normal aminotransferase levels during follow-up had normal liver histology, and the others had chronic hepatitis. Sera obtained the same day of the liver biopsy were shown to contain hepatitis C virus RNA of 10(5.7)-10(7.6) equivalent/ml (median 10(6.7)). The total histological activity index score (median 2, range 0-15) and the scores of portal inflammation (median 1, range 0-3), lobular inflammation (median 1, range 0-4) and piecemeal necrosis (median 0, range 0-5) correlated with viremia levels (r = 0.64, p < 0.01; r = 0.60, p < 0.01; r = 0.48, p < 0.05; and r = 0.49, p < 0.05, respectively).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that chronic hepatitis is frequently caused by hepatitis C virus infection irrespective of the serum aminotransferase levels, and high level hepatitis C virus replication is a contributory cause for liver injury in volunteer blood donor populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Biopsy
  • Blood Donors*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hepacivirus / isolation & purification*
  • Hepacivirus / physiology
  • Hepatitis C / diagnosis*
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Hepatitis, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis, Chronic / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Liver / microbiology
  • Liver / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Viral / blood*
  • Time Factors
  • Virus Replication


  • RNA, Viral
  • Alanine Transaminase