Neutralizing Antibodies in Patients With Chronic Hepatitis C and Correlation to Liver Cirrhosis and Estimated Duration of Infection

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Although chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection accounts for 30% of individuals with cirrhotic livers worldwide, factors influencing disease progression are far from elucidated. The aim of this study was to determine whether the level of neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) correlated with the development of cirrhosis in patients with chronic HCV infection, genotype 1, when adjusting for estimated duration of infection. Thirty-nine patients with chronic hepatitis C, with either no/mild fibrosis (n = 23) or cirrhosis (n = 16), were enrolled from two university hospitals in Denmark. Duration of HCV infection was estimated based on patient information and/or anti-HCV seroconversion. Serial dilutions of purified serum/plasma derived IgGs were tested for their ability to neutralize six HCV-genotype 1 cell-culture strains. The results were expressed as the lowest IgG concentration yielding ≥50% neutralization (NAb50-titer). A significant difference in HCV NAb50-titers among the six genotype 1a/1b recombinants was found. In patients with cirrhosis, a tendency for higher level of NAbs was observed compared to patients with no/mild fibrosis, although not statistical significant. Stratifying the two groups revealed that being infected >25 years resulted in higher levels of NAbs in both. Furthermore, by correlating estimated duration of HCV infection to NAb50-titers a significant result was found against two recombinants. The NAb titer does not differ significantly between HCV patients with either no/mild fibrosis or cirrhosis but show a tendency for increasing level with increased duration of infection. NAbs might contribute as a biological marker to increase the accuracy of patient based information on duration of HCV infection.

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