We evaluated a quantitative enzyme immunoassay (trak-C) for hepatitis C virus core antigen (HCV core Ag) by testing serum specimens from 820 injection drug users in Thailand with anti-HCV antibodies. The HCV genotypes in this population include genotypes 3 and 6, which have not been extensively tested with this assay. Among these specimens, 629 (76.7%) yielded positive results, with HCV core Ag concentrations predominantly spanning (35.7%) or above (58.2%) the measurable range of 1.5 to 100 pg/ml. To assess reproducibility, we retested 30 specimens representing six core Ag ranges; the mean coefficient of variation for each range was ≤9.7% (highest for 1.5 to 25 pg/ml). We also tested 204 specimens of the 820-specimen set for HCV RNA: while 146 (71.6%) were core Ag positive, 168 (82.4%) had detectable HCV RNA, of which 96% were typeable as genotype 3 (39%), 1 (31%), or 6 (26%) by nested reverse transcription-PCR. Among RNA-positive specimens, 86.9% had core Ag; 94% of the RNA negatives were core Ag negative. While there was no apparent bias for detecting core Ag representing the tested genotypes, median quantified results were higher for types 1a and 6 than for genotype 3 (P = 0.01); similarly, the median core Ag concentration was higher in HCV-human immunodeficiency virus-coinfected subjects than in HCV-monoinfected subjects. Our results demonstrated a good correlation between core Ag and HCV RNA in this population with high frequencies of genotypes 3 and 6. Because most core Ag concentrations were greater than those in the measurable range, we recommend a 10-fold dilution of the specimen before quantification. Reproducibility, low technical requirements, and high throughput should make this assay useful for clinical or research monitoring of HCV levels during active infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Microbiology (medical)