Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) represent an extrahepatic hepatitis C virus (HCV) reservoir, the significance of which is unclear due to limited studies and varying test methodologies. In this study, a commercial viral load assay for measuring cell-associated PBMC HCV RNA was evaluated. HCV RNA was extracted from PBMCs, sorted CD14+, and CD19+ cells and corresponding plasma samples using the Abbott m2000 and Real-Time HCV assay. Test performance and influence of HIV seropositivity on plasma and PBMC HCV RNA were studied. Among 51 patients, 67 and 62 unique patient samples had detectable plasma and PBMC HCV viral load, respectively. The median PBMC viral load was 535IU/1M cells (range 29-5,190). CD19+ cells had significantly higher viral load than CD14+ cells (median log 10 HCV viral load 2.63 vs. 1.50IU/ml; P< 0.001). Stability of PBMC viral load over time was demonstrated in untreated patients; all patients with an undetectable plasma HCV viral load after HCV treatment also demonstrated undetectable PBMC viral load. Repeated testing in nine samples yielded consistent PBMC viral load, differing by only 1.3-fold (range 1.0-1.7-fold). Among samples with detectable plasma HCV RNA, the correlation between PBMC and plasma viral load was moderate (r=0.66) and was greater among HCV mono-infected compared to HIV/HCV co-infected subjects (r=0.80 vs. 0.52). Measurement of cell-associated PBMC HCV RNA using a commercial assay demonstrated promising test characteristics. Differences in PBMC HCV viral load based on HIV-coinfection status and the significance of greater copy number in B-cells requires further study.
- Hepatitis C
- HIV infections/virology
- Viral/isolation and purification
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases