Detection of Occult Hepatitis C Virus Infection in Egyptian Patients Who Achieved a Sustained Virologic Response to Direct-Acting Antiviral Agents

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Hepatogastroentrology, Theodor Bilharz Research Institute, Egypt.

2 Department of Immunoparasitology, Theodor Bilharz Research Institute, Egypt.

3 Department of Microbial Biotechnology, Biotechnology Research Institute, National Research Centre, Egypt.

4 Department of Biochemistry & Mol. Biology, Theodor Bilharz Research Institute, Egypt.


Background: Occult hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection (OCI) is diagnosed based on the detection of HCV-RNA in non-serum reservoirs, such as peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and/or hepatocytes with undetectable HCV-RNA in the serum. The current study was designed to shed more light on the presence of occult HCV in a population of cases who achieved an SVR after receiving treatments for HCV-infection and its significance. Methods: This cross-sectional study evaluated 111 chronic HCV patients treated at Theodor Bilharz Research Institute, Egypt and achieved a sustained virological response (SVR) 12 -24 weeks after treatment with Direct acting antiviral drugs (DAAs). The treatment lasted 12 or 24 weeks using generic medications including Sofosbuvir (SOF) 400 mg/day and Daclatasvir (DCV) 60 mg/day ± weight-based Ribavirin (RBV) 600-1000 mg/day. After achieving the SVR 12 -24 weeks, all patients were subjected to clinical examination and full laboratory investigations. All the candidates were assessed for fibrosis pre/post-treatment by transient elastography (Fibroscan©). Eighty-seven patients (78.4%) received dual therapy (SOF/DCV) and 24 patients (21.6%) received triple therapy (SOF/DCV/RBV). One hundred and seven patients received the regimen for 12 weeks (96.4%) and only four patients received the regimen for 24 weeks (3.6%). All patients were examined in terms of HCV RNA in plasma and PBMCs. Results: Nine patients (8.1%) were positive for PBMCs HCV RNA. The presence of Occult HCV infection (OCI) was significantly correlated with age, level of AFP, and the degree of liver stiffness. Conclusion: The OCI was present in 8.1% of the patients who achieved an SVR 12 – 24 weeks. These patients were mostly aged and with elevated AFP and advanced fibrosis. Monitoring and follow-up of those patients may help to assess the outcomes.


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