Detection of hepatitis C after liver transplantation. Four serologic tests compared

Am J Clin Pathol. 1995 Dec;104(6):673-9. doi: 10.1093/ajcp/104.6.673.


To determine the best method for detecting HCV infection in immunosuppressed patients, stored frozen serum from 101 liver transplant recipients was tested for hepatitis C virus. Each sample was tested by four assays. HCV RNA was detected by both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and branched DNA signal amplification. Antibody to HCV was determined using second-generation enzyme-linked immunoassay (EIA) and recombinant immunoblot assay. Forty one transplant recipients met the working definition for true positives of HCV infection. Of these "true positives," 98% were positive by HCV RNA PCR assay, 88% by b-DNA signal amplification assay, 88% by anti-HCV EIA, and 63% demonstrated two or more reactive bands on recombinant immunoblot. Five of 57 (9%) HCV-antibody negative recipients had HCV RNA detected by both methods. Of 44 HCV enzyme-linked immunoassay (EIA) repeatedly reactive samples, the recombinant immunoblot was negative in 2 and indeterminate in 13. HCV RNA was present in 9 of 13 recombinant immunoblot indeterminate sera. Nine EIA repeatedly reactive sera were negative by both tests for HCV RNA. In liver transplant recipients, HCV infection is best determined by measurement of HCV RNA. Antibody formation may be delayed or suppressed in a minority of patients despite > 10(9) equivalents/L (> 10(6)/mL) of HCV RNA in serum. Recombinant immunoblots with a single reactive band pattern often indicate HCV infection in immunosuppressed patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Hepacivirus / genetics*
  • Hepatitis C / blood
  • Hepatitis C / diagnosis*
  • Hepatitis C / immunology
  • Hepatitis C / virology
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies / blood*
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Postoperative Complications / blood
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis*
  • Postoperative Complications / immunology
  • Postoperative Complications / virology
  • RNA, Viral / blood*
  • Time Factors


  • Hepatitis C Antibodies
  • RNA, Viral