Viral HCV RNA Reactivity of Corneal Cells in Plasma HCV Nucleic Acid–Positive Eye Donors

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Purpose:Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a worldwide health concern according to the World Health Organization, and a positive serology test for HCV is currently one of the most common reasons for tissue rejection for transplantation. Demonstrating the presence or absence of viral RNA or DNA in corneal cells, a privileged avascular site, verifies the importance of screening and testing protocols, which eliminate individual donor tissue from potential release for transplantation.Methods:Improved tests such as nucleic acid test (NAT) have added a significant advantage in the arsenal of measures employed to determine donor eligibility. Standard testing for blood using nucleic acid technology was applied to aliquots of corneal cells obtained by scraping pooled epithelial and endothelial cells from individual donor corneas.Results:Results of the current study further confirm and extend the importance of NAT blood tests by the demonstration of a high percentage (77%) of corneal cells that test positive with HCV NAT in conjunction with concomitant serum-positive ocular tissue donor samples.Conclusions:These data provide important support for Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that state that 3 of 4 seropositive individuals were also viremic, and reemphasize the importance of routine NAT blood testing in assuring safe tissue transplants.

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