Presence of plus-strand HCV RNA in serum and PBMCs as an indicator for relapse and resistance to IFN therapy in patients infected by HCV
Aim: The aim of our study was to investigate the correlation between the presence of plus-/minus-strand HCV RNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and serum following pegylated IFN/ribavirin therapy with response to therapy in HCV-infected patients. Methods: Forty-three HCV-infected patients who completed 48 weeks of IFN/ribavirin therapy, including 25 sustained virologic responders, 12 resistants and six relapsers, comprised the study population. Plus-/minus-strand HCV RNA was detected by reverse transcription PCR in serum and PBMCs. Results: The frequency of plus-strand HCV RNA was significantly higher in PBMC and serum samples of relapsers and resistants, and this might have important implications in clinical practice and patient management. There was no correlation between presence of plus- and minus-strand HCV RNA and genotypes, except the fact that most of the patients who had plus-strand HCV RNA in PBMCs (60%) and in serum (61.53%) belonged to genotype la. Conclusion: Presence of plus-strand HCV RNA in PBMCs and serum after termination of therapy is associated with viral relapse and resistance to IFN/ribavirin treatment in HCV-infected patients.