Pattern of HCV antibodies with special reference to NS5A reactivity in HCV-infected patients: relation to viral genotype, cryoglobulinemia d response to interferon

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We aimed to compare the anti-hepatitis C virus reactivity in confirmatory assays (RIBA 3.0 ©Ortho Diagnostic and INNO-Lia HCV Ab III©Innogenetics) among patients infected with different hepatitis C virus genotypes, with or without cryoglobulinemia, and in patients treated with interferon.


One hundred and three patients followed in our hepatogastroenterology unit were included in the study and compared to 320 consecutive patients tested using RIBA 3.0. Seventy-nine of the 103 patients were treated with interferon. Long-term responders to interferon were defined as having normal alanine aminotransferase levels and being HCV RNA negative 6 months after the end of treatment. Initial responders were defined as having normal alanine aminotransferase levels at the end of interferon therapy but abnormal alanine aminotransferase levels and/or detectable HCV RNA during the following 6 months. Non-responders were defined as still having elevated alanine aminotransferase during and after interferon. Serological tests (RIBA and INNO-LIA) were performed according to the manufacturer's instructions. HCV RNA was detected by nested polymerase chain reaction. Hepatitis C virus genotype was determined by using a Line Probe Assay (©Innogenetics).


There was no significant difference in the pattern of hepatitis C virus reactivity according to the hepatitis C virus genotype or presence of cryoglobulinemia. Twenty-three patients were classified as non-responders, 35 as initial responders, 21 as long-term responders. NS5 reactivity was significantly different (p<0.01) between these three groups: 34% of non-responders (8/23) had RIBA 3.0 NS5 reactivity and 13% (3/23) were reactive in the INNO-LIA III. Almost all long-term responders (95%) had NS5 reactivity by both RIBA 3.0 and INNO-LIA III.


We conclude that patients who respond to interferon have stronger reactivity against NS5 antigens than non-responders. Molecular changes in the NS5A region may be responsible for such differences, as recently suggested.

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