News from Hepatitis Week of Jan. 4, 2004/ Vol. 4 No. 01
Study: Blood Cell Tests Can identify High Numbers of Patients With Hidden Hepatitis C

A high percentage of patients with a hidden hepatitis C infection can be easily and safely identified through testing on blood cells rather than liver cells, according to a study reported in the January 1 issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Hidden cases of hepatitis C can occur in patients who have persistently abnormal liver function tests but no sign of liver disease.

Using a blood cell test known as reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, the researchers detected hepatitis C virus RNA in blood cells from 40 of 57 patients with hidden hepatitis C.

The implication of this finding, the researchers noted, is that a high percentage of patients with hidden hepatitis C may be more easily and more safely identified by obtaining and testing blood cells rather than liver cells. Such a test is also minimally invasive, they added.

The study participants all had abnormally high levels of alanine aminotransferase or gamma glutamyl transpeptidase for at least 12 months. In all of the participants, hepatitis C virus infection as a cause of their abnormal liver function had ostensibly been excluded.

In an accompanying editorial, Drs. Hervé Lerat, and F. Blaine Hollinger, of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said the findings support the use of both alanine aminotransferase or gamma glutamyl transpeptidase to identify patients who may qualify for such blood cell testing for hidden hepatitis C infection.

Other sources: Infectious Diseases Society of America