Hepatitis C virus core antigen (HCV Ag) assay has been proposed as a more economical alternative to HCV RNA detection. This study aimed to investigate the clinical utility of HCV Ag assay in the monitoring of direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) for chronic hepatitis C patients.
We analyzed serum samples from 110 patients treated with paritaprevir/ritonavir, ombitasvir, and dasabuvir (PrOD) with or without ribavirin. The levels for both HCV Ag and HCV RNA assessed by COBAS TaqMan HCV (CTM) Test or Abbott RealTime HCV (ART) assay were evaluated at baseline, week 2, 4, and 12 during treatment and 12 weeks after completion.
Baseline HCV Ag levels showed good correlations with HCV viral load (r = 0.879; p<0.001); whereas the correlation was slightly stronger with CTM test than with ART assay (p = 0.074). The concordance of HCV Ag and HCV RNA undetectability was significantly better in CTM test than in ART assay at week 2 (p = 0.003) and week 4 (p = 0.003). A sustained viral response 12 weeks off therapy (SVR12) was achieved in 108 patients (98%); the HCV Ag assay identified 99% of these patients. Both undetectability of serum HCV Ag and HCV RNA had high positive predictive value at week 2 (98% vs. 100%) and at week 4 (97% vs. 99%) in predicting SVR12.
HCV Ag assay may be a feasible alternative to HCV RNA for the determination of SVR12 in patients treated with DAAs.