Viral immunology 2017 09 05() doi 10.1089/vim.2017.0030
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection is a major health concern worldwide. The presence of both HCV viral RNA and NS5A proteins in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) indicate the efficacy of the treatment during sustained virological response (SVR) and end of treatment response (ETR). The main objective of this study was to detect the absence or presence of HCV RNA and NS5A proteins in PBMCs. Blood samples were taken from selected patients (Islamabad, Pakistan) before treatment, at ETR, and during SVR. Two hundred HCV responders to pegylated IFN-α-2a plus ribavirin were selected. HCV RNA was extracted from the patients to determine the viral load by reverse transcription (RT)-polymerase chain reaction before treatment. Out of 200 patients, 152 (76%) and 48 (24%) achieved positive and negative ETR, respectively. Among ETR patients, 134 (88.2%) showed SVR, whereas 18 (11.8%) displayed relapse. The male to female ratio was 92:108 with mean age of 37.4 years. Among 152 ETR-positive patients, 29 (19%) patients’ PBMCs were positive for HCV RNA and 27 (17.8%) were positive for NS55A proteins. Patients having HCV RNA in PBMCs showed higher relapse frequency compared with patients lacking it. Similarly, patients having NS5A protein showed significantly higher relapse frequency compared with patients lacking it. All PBMC-positive samples were of genotype 3a. In addition, patients with positive NS5A in their PBMCs showed greater risk of relapse compared with patients having HCV RNA. We conclude that the absence of both viral HCV and proteins can be used as an indicator for diagnosis of SVR in the future.