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Title: High antibody level: An accurate serologic marker of viremia in asymptomatic people with hepatitis C infection
Author: Contreras, A.M.
Ochoa-Jimenez, R.J.
Celis, A.
Mendez, C.
Olivares, L.
Rebolledo, C.E.
Hernandez-Lugo, I.
Aguirre-Zavala, A.I.
Jimenez-Mendez, R.
Chung, R.T.
Issue Date: 2010
Abstract: Background: The screening and diagnosis of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is initiated by testing for antibody to HCV (anti-HCV). A positive anti-HCV test in blood donors represents ongoing infection in only a variable proportion of individuals. Because a high anti-HCV level has been associated with viremia, a study was conducted to determine whether a high antibody level is an accurate serologic marker for viremia in asymptomatic anti-HCV-positive persons. Study design and methods: In a diagnostic test study, we included 856 anti-HCV-positive blood donors in a blood bank at Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, between 2002 and 2007. A third-generation amplified chemiluminescence assay (ChLIA HCV) was used to detect anti-HCV. A positive result of the qualitative nucleic acid test (HCV RNA) was considered the gold standard for viremia. RESULTS: By receiver operating characteristic analysis, the signal-to-cutoff (S/CO) ratio of 20 or more was chosen as optimal to identify viremia and so was defined as high anti-HCV level. There was a significant difference in the proportion of viremia between subjects with high antibody level and those with lower levels (93.7% vs. 1.8%, respectively; p < 0.001). A high antibody level showed a sensitivity for viremia of 96.6% (95% confidence interval [CI], 93.8%-98.1%), a specificity of 96.6% (95% CI, 94.8%-97.8%), and a likelihood ratio of 28.6 (95% CI, 18.4%-44.6%). CONCLUSION: A high antibody level (S/CO ratio ≥20 by ChLIA HCV) clearly divides the viremic from the nonviremic blood donors and functions as an accurate serologic marker to guide the use of routine HCV RNA testing to confirm hepatitis C infection. © 2010 American Association of Blood Banks.
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