Humoral Immune Response to Hepatitis C After Liver Transplantation: Assessment of a New Recombinant Immunoblot Assay

Rosen, Hugo R.; Gretch, David; Kaufman, Ezra; Quan, Stella
August 2000
American Journal of Gastroenterology;Aug2000, Vol. 95 Issue 8, p2035
Academic Journal
OBJECTIVE: The immune control of infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV) is poorly understood; vigorous antibody responses to viral proteins seem to coexist with the virus and thus whether they are neutralizing remains controversial. HCV-related liver failure is the leading indication for orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) worldwide. Attenuated antibody responses in immunosuppressed patients and decreased reliability compared to assessment of HCV RNA has hampered the use of antibody testing post-OLT. The goals of this current analysis were twofold: to determine the sensitivity of a prototype strip immunoblot assay (RIBA 3.0, Chiron Diagnostics) for the diagnosis of HCV post-OLT; to determine if there was a correlation between antibody response and severity of histological recurrence. METHODS: The study was comprised of 76 HCV-positive individuals divided into three patient groups: liver allograft recipients with evidence of mild or no histological recurrence (n = 52). liver allograft recipients with evidence of severe HCV recurrence and allograft cirrhosis (n = 12), and nontransplant patients being enrolled in an induction interferon trial (n = 12). All transplant patients had histological follow-up of at least 1 yr. RESULTS: Sixty of the 64 (94%) HCV-positive OLT recipients had I + reactivity to two or more recombinant antigens: three of the patients who lacked a detectable response had minimal histological recurrence and one had severe recurrence. All nontransplant patients demonstrated 4+ re-activity to at least two antigens, and 55/64 (86%) OLT recipients demonstrated this same level of reactivity. Seven of the nine patients lacking this high level of reactivity had evidence of minimal recurrence. Furthermore, the mean (± SEM) level of antibody reactivity for c100 (p = 0.04) and NS5 (p = 0.01) were significantly lower for patients with mild recurrence after OLT, compared to the other groups. The level of antibody reactivity was unrelated to HCV genotype or viral load. CONCLUSIONS: The recently developed RIBA 3.0 assay for detection of antibodies to HCV appears to be highly sensitive for the diagnosis of HCV post-OLT. In general, the level of antibody reactivity was comparable in the transplant patients and in nonimmunosuppressed controls. The pathogenic implications of the relatively diminished humoral response in patients with mild recurrence post-OLT are discussed.


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