HBV, HCV, and TTV detection by in situ polymerase chain reaction could reveal occult infection in hepatocellular carcinoma: comparison with blood markers

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To report a retrospective analysis on the presence of hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and transfusion transmitted virus (TTV) sequences in formalin fixed, paraffin embedded liver biopsies from eight patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, in comparison with blood markers.


A direct in situ polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique was developed for the detection and localisation of genomic signals in the liver tissue. Conventional serological and molecular methods were used for blood evaluation.


In situ PCR showed the presence of one of the three viruses (four HCV, two HBV, and one TTV) in seven of the eight patients. In addition, a co-infection with HBV and HCV was detected in one patient. HCV and HBV sequences were located in the cytoplasm and the nucleus, respectively. When compared with blood markers, these findings were compatible with one occult HBV and two occult HCV infections.


These findings provide further evidence for occult HBV and HCV infections in cancerous tissues from patients with hepatocellular carcinomas. In situ PCR could be an additional tool for evaluating the viral aetiology of hepatocellular carcinoma alongside conventional diagnostic procedures.

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