Interferon and ribavirin therapy for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection yields sustained virological response (SVR) rates of 50–80%. Several factors such as non-1 genotype, beneficial IL28B genetic variants, low baseline IP-10, and the functionality of HCV-specific T cells predict SVR. With the pending introduction of new therapies for HCV entailing very rapid clearance of plasma HCV RNA, the importance of baseline biomarkers likely will increase in order to tailor therapy. CD26 (DPPIV) truncates the chemokine IP-10 into a shorter antagonistic form, and this truncation of IP-10 has been suggested to influence treatment outcome in patients with chronic HCV infection patients. In addition, previous reports have shown CD26 to be a co-stimulator for T cells. The aim of the present study was to assess the utility of CD26 as a biomarker for treatment outcome in chronic hepatitis C and to define its association with HCV-specific T cells.
Baseline plasma from 153 genotype 1 and 58 genotype 2/3 infected patients enrolled in an international multicenter phase III trial (DITTO-HCV) and 36 genotype 1 infected patients participating in a Swedish trial (TTG1) were evaluated regarding baseline soluble CD26 (sCD26) and the functionality of HCV-specific CD8+ T cells.
Genotype 1 infected patients achieving SVR in the DITTO (P = 0.002) and the TTG1 (P = 0.02) studies had lower pretreatment sCD26 concentrations compared with non-SVR patients. Sixty-five percent of patients with sCD26 concentrations below 600 ng/mL achieved SVR compared with 39% of the patients with sCD26 exceeding 600 ng/mL (P = 0.01). Patients with sCD26 concentrations below 600 ng/mL had significantly higher frequencies of HCV-specific CD8+ T cells (P = 0.02).
Low baseline systemic concentrations of sCD26 predict favorable treatment outcome in chronic HCV infection and may be associated with higher blood counts of HCV-specific CD8+ T cells.
Hepatic steatosis in HCV patients has been postulated as a risk factor associated with a higher frequency of fibrosis and cirrhosis. A single genetic variant, PNPLA3 I148M, has been widely associated with increased hepatic steatosis. Previous studies of the PNPLA3 I148M sequence variant in HCV infected individuals have reported an association between this variant and prevalence of steatosis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. To evaluate the impact of PNPLA3 I148M variant on metabolic traits and treatment response in HCV genotype 2 and 3 infected patients.
Three hundred and eighty-two treatment naïve HCV genotype 2 or 3 infected patients were included in a phase III, open label, randomized, multicenter, investigator-initiated trial (the NORDynamIC study), in which pretreatment liver biopsies were mandatory. PNPLA3I148M genotyping was performed in a total of 359 Caucasian patients.
In HCV genotype 2 infected patients carrying the PNPLA3 148M allele, there was significantly increased insulin resistance (P = 0.023) and lower viral load (P = 0.005) at baseline as well as the first seven days of antiviral treatment. These results were not observed in HCV genotype 3 infected patients.
Our results suggest a possible association between the PNPLA3 148M allele and insulin resistance as well as baseline viral load in HCV genotype 2, but not in genotype 3.
Hepatitis C; PNPLA 3; Insulin resistance; Viral load
Quantification of hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA and surface antigen (HBsAg) serum levels have become increasingly important for the assessment of clinical stage and response to treatment for chronic hepatitis B. Effective immune clearance results in reduction of viremia by 4–5 log units and HBsAg levels by 2 log, but these processes are not well understood. Thus, it is uncertain to what extent mechanisms that inhibit transcription of the pregenomic RNA (pgRNA), an RNA intermediate, contribute to suppression of viremia. Likewise, it is unclear if transcriptional regulation is important for the excessive production of surface antigen (HBsAg) that is a hallmark of HBV infection.
HBV RNA and cccDNA were quantified in 19 liver biopsies from patients with chronic HBV infection, as well as in transfected Huh7.5 cells and in PLC/PRF/5 cells carrying integrated HBV genome.
Patients negative for HBeAg had 2.15 log lower levels of cccDNA in liver tissue, 4.84 log lower serum levels of HBV DNA and 1.45 log lower serum levels of HBsAg, than HBeAg-positive patients. The pgRNA in liver tissue correlated strongly with cccDNA (R2 = 0.87, p<0.0001) and HBV DNA levels in serum (R2 = 0.81, p<0.0001), whereas S-RNA correlated strongly with cccDNA (R2 = 0.65, p<0.0001) and HBsAg levels (R2 = 0.57, p = 0.0003). The S-RNA/pgRNA ratio was higher in HBeAg-negative patients (ratio 40 vs. 3, p = 0.01) and in PLC/PRF/5 cells, and was in transfected Huh7.5 cells not influenced by mutations in the HBV core promoter.
The reduction of viremia that is observed after loss of HBeAg was mainly explained by reduced cccDNA load in the liver, whereas the contribution of down-regulation of pgRNA transcription was relatively small. Enhanced transcription of S-RNA does not explain excessive production of HBsAg.
DNA-based human papillomavirus (HPV) assays show high sensitivity but poor specificity in detecting high-grade cervical lesions. Assays detecting mRNA of the oncoproteins E6 and E7 show higher specificity but lack either detection of all high-risk HPV genotypes or the capacity to specify the detected genotypes. Therefore, a real-time PCR assay detecting type-specific E6/E7 mRNA was developed and the clinical performance evaluated. A total of 210 cervical LBC (liquid-based cytology) samples from 204 women were analyzed for HPV DNA and mRNA with the in-house real-time PCR as well as PreTect HPV-Proofer. The sensitivity of real-time PCR mRNA detection to identify histologically confirmed CIN2+ (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, grade 2 or higher) was 0.91, compared to 0.95 for DNA analysis. The specificity was 0.68 compared to 0.38, and the positive predictive value (PPV) was higher for mRNA (0.67 versus 0.52) without any loss in negative predictive value (NPV). The sensitivity of the real-time PCR mRNA test was somewhat higher than that for PreTect HPV-Proofer (0.83 versus 0.75) in analyses for the same genotypes. The specificities were similar (0.76 versus 0.77). In analyses for mRNA of the eight most common genotypes in cervical cancer (HPV16, -18, -31, -33, -35, -45, -52, and -58), the sensitivity of detection of CIN2+ lesions was 0.87 and the specificity 0.74, with a PPV of 0.70. In conclusion, real-time PCR for detection of HPV E6/E7 mRNA transcripts can be a sensitive and specific tool in screening and investigation of cervical neoplasia. The composition of HPV types in mRNA testing needs to be further investigated to optimize sensitivity and specificity.
Background and Aims
Recently, several genome-wide association studies have revealed that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in proximity to IL28B predict spontaneous clearance of HCV infection as well as outcome following peginterferon and ribavirin therapy among HCV genotype 1 infected patients. The present study aimed to evaluate the impact of IL28B SNP variability on liver histology in the context of a phase III treatment trial (NORDynamIC) for treatment-naïve patients with chronic HCV genotype 2 or 3 infection, where pretreatment liver biopsies were mandatory.
Three hundred and thirty-nine Caucasian patients had samples available for IL28B genotyping (rs12979860) of whom 314 had pretreatment liver biopsies that were evaluated using the Ishak protocol, allowing for detailed grading and staging of liver histopathology.
IL28B CCrs12979860 genotype in HCV genotype 3 infected patients was associated with higher ALT levels (p<0.0001), higher AST to platelet ratio index (APRI; p = 0.001), and higher baseline viral load (p<0.0001) as compared to patients with the CT or TT genotypes. Additionally the CCrs12979860 genotype entailed more pronounced portal inflammation (p = 0.02) and steatosis (p = 0.03). None of these associations were noted among HCV genotype 2 infected patients.
This study shows that the CCrs12979860 SNP is associated with more pronounced liver histopathology in patients chronically infected with HCV genotype 3, which may be secondary to higher viral load. The finding that IL28B variability did not impact on liver pathology or viral load among genotype 2 infected patients implies that IL28B may differentially regulate the course of genotype 2 and 3 infection.
Infections of the central nervous system (CNS) with herpes- or enterovirus can be self-limiting and benign, but occasionally result in severe and fatal disease. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has revolutionized the diagnostics of viral pathogens, and by multiple displacement amplification (MDA) prior to real-time PCR the sensitivity might be further enhanced. The aim of this study was to investigate if herpes- or enterovirus can be detected in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from patients without symptoms.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from 373 patients lacking typical symptoms of viral CNS infection were analysed by real-time PCR targeting herpesviruses or enteroviruses with or without prior MDA.
In total, virus was detected in 17 patients (4%). Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) was most commonly detected, in general from patients with other conditions (e.g. infections, cerebral hemorrhage). MDA satisfactorily amplified viral DNA in the absence of human nucleic acids, but showed poor amplification capacity for viral DNA in CSF samples, and did not increase the sensitivity for herpes virus-detection with our methodology.
Viral pathogens are rarely detected in CSF from patients without signs of CNS infection, supporting the view that real-time PCR is a highly specific method to detect symptomatic CNS-infection caused by these viruses. However, EBV may be subclinically reactivated due to other pathological conditions in the CNS.
Patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 respond poorly to standard treatment with 50% or less achieving sustained virologic response. Predicting outcome is essential and could help avoid unnecessary treatment and reduce health cost. Recently, an association of amino acid substitutions in the core region and treatment outcome was observed in Japanese patients. In the present study, the impact of these mutations on response kinetics and treatment outcome was explored in Caucasian patients.
The core region of HCV pre-treatment samples obtained from 50 patients treated with peginterferon/ribavirin in a previous Swedish clinical trial with genotype 1 infection were sequenced. The alleles at rs12979860, a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), were assessed in order to identify any co-association with this strong response predictor.
No association between treatment response and substitutions of core residue 91 was found. In contrast, substitutions of core residue 70 were observed in 6/21 (29%) non-responders, but only in one of 29 responders (p = 0.03), and were more common in subgenotype 1b (R70Q in 6 of 13 strains) than in 1a (R70P in 1 of 37 strains, p = 0.004). The rs12979860 SNP upstream of the IL28B gene was overall the strongest response predictor (p = 0.0001). Core 70 substitutions were associated with poorer response kinetics in patients carrying the CT genotype at rs12979860.
The results indicate that substitutions of core residue 70 are related to treatment response in Caucasian patients with HCV-1b infection, but are of less importance than IL28B polymorphism.
Viral respiratory infections are common worldwide and range from completely benign disease to life-threatening illness. Symptoms can be unspecific, and an etiologic diagnosis is rarely established because of a lack of suitable diagnostic tools. Improper use of antibiotics is common in this setting, which is detrimental in light of the development of bacterial resistance. It has been suggested that the use of diagnostic tests could reduce antibiotic prescription rates. The objective of this study was to evaluate whether access to a multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay panel for etiologic diagnosis of acute respiratory tract infections (ARTIs) would have an impact on antibiotic prescription rate in primary care clinical settings.
Adult patients with symptoms of ARTI were prospectively included. Nasopharyngeal and throat swabs were analysed by using a multiplex real-time PCR method targeting thirteen viruses and two bacteria. Patients were recruited at 12 outpatient units from October 2006 through April 2009, and samples were collected on the day of inclusion (initial visit) and after 10 days (follow-up visit). Patients were randomised in an open-label treatment protocol to receive a rapid or delayed result (on the following day or after eight to twelve days). The primary outcome measure was the antibiotic prescription rate at the initial visit, and the secondary outcome was the total antibiotic prescription rate during the study period.
A total sample of 447 patients was randomised. Forty-one were excluded, leaving 406 patients for analysis. In the group of patients randomised for a rapid result, 4.5% (9 of 202) of patients received antibiotics at the initial visit, compared to 12.3% (25 of 204) (P = 0.005) of patients in the delayed result group. At follow-up, there was no significant difference between the groups: 13.9% (28 of 202) in the rapid result group and 17.2% (35 of 204) in the delayed result group (P = 0.359), respectively.
Access to a rapid method for etiologic diagnosis of ARTIs may reduce antibiotic prescription rates at the initial visit in an outpatient setting. To sustain this effect, however, it seems necessary to better define how to follow and manage the patient according to the result of the test, which warrants further investigation.
ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT01133782.
High baseline levels of IP-10 predict a slower first phase decline in HCV RNA and a poor outcome following interferon/ribavirin therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C. Several recent studies report that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) adjacent to IL28B predict spontaneous resolution of HCV infection and outcome of treatment among HCV genotype 1 infected patients.
Methods and Findings
In the present study, we correlated the occurrence of variants at three such SNPs (rs12979860, rs12980275, and rs8099917) with pretreatment plasma IP-10 and HCV RNA throughout therapy within a phase III treatment trial (HCV-DITTO) involving 253 Caucasian patients. The favorable SNP variants (CC, AA, and TT, respectively) were associated with lower baseline IP-10 (P = 0.02, P = 0.01, P = 0.04) and were less common among HCV genotype 1 infected patients than genotype 2/3 (P<0.0001, P<0.0001, and P = 0.01). Patients carrying favorable SNP genotypes had higher baseline viral load than those carrying unfavorable variants (P = 0.0013, P = 0.029, P = 0.0004 respectively). Among HCV genotype 1 infected carriers of the favorable C, A, or T alleles, IP-10 below 150 pg/mL significantly predicted a more pronounced reduction of HCV RNA from day 0 to 4 (first phase decline), which translated into increased rates of RVR (62%, 53%, and 39%) and SVR (85%, 76%, and 75% respectively) among homozygous carriers with baseline IP-10 below 150 pg/mL. In multivariate analyses of genotype 1-infected patients, baseline IP-10 and C genotype at rs12979860 independently predicted the first phase viral decline and RVR, which in turn independently predicted SVR.
Concomitant assessment of pretreatment IP-10 and IL28B-related SNPs augments the prediction of the first phase decline in HCV RNA, RVR, and final therapeutic outcome.
Chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) is an important cause of cirrhosis and cancer of the liver. HBV is currently classified into eight genotypes, A to H. Accumulated evidence shows that the genotype influences both the clinical course of infection and the response to treatment. We describe a new method for genotyping based on TaqMan real-time PCR, which identifies all HBV genotypes without post-PCR processing. In this assay, each sample is processed in four multiplex real-time PCRs, each targeting two or three genotype-specific segments of HBV. By analyzing 185 samples representing all genotypes and different proportions of genotype mixtures, we could validate high accuracy of the assay. We conclude that this new assay represents a significant advancement for both diagnostics and clinical research because it is accurate, practical, and based on a technique that is well established in many virological laboratories.
Objectives. Viruses may contribute to RA. This prompted us to monitor viral load and response to anti-CD20 therapy in RA patients.
Methods. Blood and bone marrow from 35 RA patients were analysed for CMV, EBV, HSV-1, HSV-2, parvovirus B19 and polyomavirus using real-time PCR before and 3 months after rituximab (RTX) treatment and related to the levels of autoantibodies and B-cell depletion. Clinical response to RTX was defined as decrease in the 28-joint disease activity score (DAS-28) >1.3 at 6 months.
Results. Before RTX treatment, EBV was identified in 15 out of 35 patients (EBV-positive group), of which 4 expressed parvovirus. Parvovirus was further detected in eight patients (parvo-positive group). Twelve patients were negative for the analysed viruses. Following RTX, EBV was cleared, whereas parvovirus was unaffected. Eighteen patients were responders, of which 12 were EBV positive. The decrease in the DAS-28 was significantly higher in EBV-positive group compared with parvo-positive group (P = 0.002) and virus-negative patients (P = 0.04). Most of EBV-negative patients that responded to RTX (75%) required retreatment within the following 11 months compared with only 8% of responding EBV-positive patients. A decrease of RF, Ig-producing cells and CD19+ B cells was observed following RTX but did not distinguish between viral infections. However, EBV-infected patients had significantly higher levels of Fas-expressing B cells at baseline as compared with EBV-negative groups.
Conclusions. EBV and parvovirus genomes are frequently found in bone marrow of RA patients. The presence of EBV genome was associated with a better clinical response to RTX. Thus, presence of EBV genome may predict clinical response to RTX.
Rheumatoid arthritis; Biological therapy; B-cell depletion; Viral infection; Epstein–Barr virus
We monitored early viral response during the treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection with the aim of identifying predictors of treatment outcome. We studied 53 patients with genotype 1 infection who received 180 μg/week pegylated interferon alfa-2a and 1,000 or 1,200 mg/day ribavirin depending on body weight and serially assessed HCV RNA in serum, using the Cobas TaqMan assay. Thirty-one patients (58%) achieved sustained viral response (SVR). SVR was obtained in 100% (10/10) of patients with pretreatment viremia concentrations below 400,000 IU/ml, in 100% (14/14) of patients with more than 1.5 log reduction of HCV RNA after 4 days of treatment, and in 95% (22/23) of patients with a rate of decline in viremia higher than 0.70 log units/week during the second phase. Non-SVR was seen in all patients with a second-phase decline rate lower than 0.35 log units/week. Patients with slopes between 0.50 and 0.80 log units/week achieved SVR (4/4) unless the treatment dose was modified (3/3). We conclude that the second-phase slope appears to be an accurate and useful predictor of treatment response. On the basis of these findings, we propose a model of tailored treatment which takes into account the second-phase slope and the amount of HCV RNA after 21 days of treatment.
Both the viral titer and the genotype significantly determine clinical outcomes and responses to antiviral treatment in chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. A method was developed for large-scale A-to-G genotyping with simultaneous viral quantification. The assay was run on a LightCycler instrument using hybridization probes. The genotype was determined from the melting points of the probes in a two-step manner. Set 1 amplicons differentiated genotypes B, E, and F from A, C, D, and G and simultaneously quantified viremia by real-time PCR. Melting curve analysis using the set 2-1 amplicon or the set 2-2 amplicon reaction mixture was then used to differentiate these genotype groups into single genotypes. HBV DNA quantification was consistent with that of the Amplicor assay and linear in a range from 102 to 1013 copies/ml. By comparison with the restriction fragment length polymorphism method, 92.3% of 441 samples were accurately genotyped by the current assay. The method should be useful for genotyping and quantification of HBV DNA in areas where all genotypes exist.
The COBAS AMPLICOR hepatitis B virus assay targets a conserved region of the genome and is widely used to monitor treatment of hepatitis B in order to identify emerging resistance. However, the assay failed to recognize increasing viremia levels when YMDD mutations were paralleled by mutations in the segment targeted by the COBAS AMPLICOR probe.
The Cobas Taqman assay for hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA showed linear detection over 7 logs for genotypes A to D. The coefficient of variation was 1.2% at ≥1,000 IU/ml and 22.0% at 10 IU/ml. In 97 clinical samples, the log HBV DNA/ml differed by 0.11 between Cobas Amplicor and Cobas Taqman (r2 = 0.97).
Herpes simplex virus types 1 (HSV-1) and 2 (HSV-2) are major causes of mucocutaneous lesions and severe infections of the central nervous system. Here a new semiautomated method for detecting and typing of HSV was used to analyze 479 mucocutaneous swab samples. After DNA extraction using a Magnapure LC robot, a 118-bp segment of the gB region was amplified by real-time PCR utilizing type-specific TaqMan probes to identify HSV-1 or HSV-2. HSV detection in a single well using probes labeled with carboxyfluorescein (FAM) for HSV-1 and JOE (6-carboxy-4′,5′-dichloro-2′,7′-dimethoxyfluorescein) for HSV-2 had a sensitivity similar to that seen in separate reactions. All but one of 217 samples (99.5%) that had been positive by virus culture were positive by TaqMan PCR, with a correct identification of type in all cases. Out of 262 samples negative by virus culture, 48 (18.3%) were positive by TaqMan PCR, with higher Ct values compared with culture positive samples (P < 0.0001). Overall, the Ct values for HSV-1 were lower than for HSV-2 (mean, 25.5 versus 27.9), but to some extent this could be due to weaker fluorescence by JOE. Lower Ct values for HSV-1 were seen also in the 202 genital samples (79 HSV-1, 122 HSV-2, 1 HSV-1 and HSV-2), indicating that HSV-1 replicates as well as HSV-2 in the genital area. HSV-1 constituted 40% of genital infections and was associated with lower mean age (29.2 versus 36.4 years), probably reflecting the fact that recurrent genital HSV-1 infections are rare.
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is a ubiquitous human pathogen which establishes lifelong infections. In the present study, we determined the sequence diversity of the complete genes coding for glycoproteins G (gG), I (gI), and E (gE), comprising 2.3% of the HSV-1 genome and located within the unique short (US) region, for 28 clinical HSV-1 isolates inducing oral lesions, genital lesions, or encephalitis. Laboratory strains F and KOS321 were sequenced in parallel. Phylogenetic analysis, including analysis of laboratory strain 17 (GenBank), revealed that the sequences were separated into three genetic groups. The identification of different genogroups facilitated the detection of recombinant viruses by using specific nucleotide substitutions as recombination markers. Seven of the isolates and strain 17 displayed sequences consistent with intergenic recombination, and at least four isolates were intragenic recombinants. The observed frequency of recombination based on an analysis of a short stretch of the US region suggests that most full-length HSV-1 genomes consist of a mosaic of segments from different genetic groups. Polymorphic tandem repeat regions, consisting of two to eight blocks of 21 nucleotides in the gI gene and seven to eight repeats of 3 nucleotides in the gG gene, were also detected. Laboratory strain KOS321 displayed a frameshift mutation in the gI gene with a subsequent alteration of the deduced intracellular portion of the protein. The presence of polymorphic tandem repeat regions and the different genogroup identities can be used for molecular epidemiology studies and for further detection of recombination in the HSV-1 genome.
An enzyme immunoassay has recently been developed for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) core antigen. To evaluate the possible association between core antigen and HCV RNA levels with regards to the change in liver histology over time as well as study the effect of duration of storage on viral load results, sequential sera were analyzed from 45 patients with chronic HCV infection who had undergone two or more liver biopsies. A relatively strong association was found between the core antigen and HCV RNA concentrations (rs = 0.8), with a core antigen level of 1 pg/ml corresponding to approximately 1,000 IU/ml. All 42 sera with detectable HCV RNA at the time of the second biopsy had core antigen concentrations above 1 pg/ml, and the three sera without detectable HCV RNA had concentrations below 1 pg/ml. No association was found between HCV RNA or core antigen levels and the stage of fibrosis in biopsy samples, progression of fibrosis, necro-inflammatory grade, steatosis, genotype, alanine aminotransferase level, or alcohol consumption. A significant association was demonstrated between the storage time of the samples and both the HCV RNA and core antigen concentrations. The median log HCV RNA concentrations (international units/milliliter) were 3.92 for the sera obtained at the time of the first biopsy (median storage time, 13.0 years) and 4.41 for the sera obtained at the time of the second biopsy (median storage time, 6.6 years) compared to 5.96, the median for 102 different routine clinical patient samples.
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) encodes 11 envelope glycoproteins, of which glycoprotein G-1 (gG-1) induces a type-specific antibody response. Variability of the gG-1 gene among wild-type strains may be a factor of importance for a reliable serodiagnosis and typing of HSV-1 isolates. Here, we used a gG-1 type-specific monoclonal antibody (MAb) to screen for mutations in the immunodominant region of this protein in 108 clinical HSV-1 isolates. Of these, 42 isolates showed no reactivity to the anti-gG-1 MAb. One hundred five strains were further examined by DNA sequencing of the middle part of the gG-1 gene, encompassing 106 amino acids including the immunodominant region and epitope of the anti-gG-1 MAb. By phylogenetic comparisons based on the sequence data, we observed two (main) genetic variants of the gG-1 gene among the clinical isolates corresponding to reactivity or nonreactivity to the anti-gG-1 MAb. Furthermore, four strains appeared to be recombinants of the two gG-1 variants. In addition, one strain displayed a gG-1-negative phenotype due to a frameshift mutation, in the form of insertion of a cytosine nucleotide. When immunoglobulin G reactivity to HSV-1 in sera from patients infected with either of the two variants was investigated, no significant differences were found between the two groups, either in a type-common enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or in a type-specific gG-1 antigen-based ELISA. Despite the here-documented existence of two variants of the gG-1 gene affecting the immunodominant region of the protein, other circumstances, such as early phase of infection, might be sought for explaining the seronegativity to gG-1 commonly found in a proportion of the HSV-1-infected patients.
Mutations that prevent the expression of the hepatitis B e antigen frequently emerge in the immunoreactive phase of infection. The predominant mutation, the precore G→A-1896 mutation, is restricted by the variability at position 1858 and is rare in strains with cytosine at nucleotide 1858. The C-1858 variant is characteristic of genotype A. It also occurs in genotypes C and F, but not in B, D, or E, explaining the geographical variation in the prevalence of precore mutants. C-1858 strains have been frequently observed in southeast Asia, but have not been phylogenetically characterized. By sequencing eight complete hepatitis B virus genomes, C-1858 variants of east Asian origin were found to constitute a phylogenetic entity within genotype C that probably diverged several hundred years ago. Further study of the distribution of this variant is warranted.
A highly sensitive method of quantitative analysis of hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA in serum, the Cobas Amplicor HBV Monitor (Cobas-AM) test, was evaluated. Following a manual extraction of viral DNA, amplification, colorimetric detection, and quantitative determination are all automatically performed in the Cobas analyzer. Serially diluted samples with known HBV DNA concentrations were analyzed blindly. All samples with a virus concentration of 400 copies/ml and 83% of samples with a virus concentration of 100 copies/ml could be detected. A linear correlation between input HBV DNA and measured HBV DNA was seen in the range from 100 to 105 copies/ml. The mean coefficient of variation was 29.6% for all input levels and 18.9% for HBV DNA concentrations above 400 copies/ml. Samples with an HBV DNA level above 109 copies/ml could be reproducibly measured after predilution to 10−4 or 10−6 in negative serum; however, the level was underestimated if target DNA after dilution was still above the linear range of the assay. Quantitative results of the Cobas-AM test were interchangeable with measurements by the manual microwell plate version of Amplicor HBV Monitor (MWP-AM); the mean ratio for log Cobas-AM results/log MWP-AM results was 0.97 (standard error of the mean, 0.007) when serum samples from 153 chronic carriers were analyzed. The test should be of value for clinical assessment of chronic carriers and for monitoring the response to antiviral treatment. A limitation is the relatively narrow linear range of the assay, requiring predilution of high-titer (mainly hepatitis B e-antigen-positive) samples.