Background: Our previous results showed that hepatitis C virus (HCV) is detectable on erythrocytes by RT in situ PCR. The aims of the present study were to compare the sensitivity of this erythrocyte in situ PCR to routine serum solution phase HCV PCR as well as to obtain more data about the binding and cellular localization of HCV in the erythrocyte. Methods: 105 previously HCV-infected patients and 20 control individuals were studied using RT in situ PCR on erythrocytes and solution phase RT-PCR from serum samples. Binding of HCV to erythrocytes was studied by in vitro inoculation. RT in situ PCR results were evaluated by fluorescence and confocal laser scanning microscopy. Results: From 105 HCV cases, 78 gave positive, while 5 - and all control cases - gave negative results by both PCR techniques. In 21 cases, only the in situ technique provided positive results, while in only 1 case did the solution phase method provide positive results. During in vitro inoculation, an early HCV-erythrocyte binding was detected followed by virus internalization. Conclusions: Erythrocyte-in situ PCR was found to show higher sensitivity for the detection of HCV compared to the generally applied serum PCR method. In vitro studies suggested a specific binding of HCV to erythrocyte and showed the virus to be capable of internalization.
ASJC Scopus subject areas