JOURNAL ARTICLE

Frequent detection of HCV RNA and HCVcoreAg in stool of patients with chronic hepatitis C

Benjamin Heidrich, Eike Steinmann, Iris Plumeier, Janina Kirschner, Lisa Sollik, Szilvia Ziegert, Michael Engelmann, Patrick Lehmann, Michael Peter Manns, Dietmar Helmut Pieper, Heiner Wedemeyer
Journal of Clinical Virology 2016, 80: 1-7
27128354

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: HCV is transmitted mainly by parenteral routes. However, unprotected anal intercourse has also been identified as a risk factor for HCV infection. HCV RNA can be detected in blood, saliva, and bile, but the presence of HCV in stool has not been investigated yet.

STUDY DESIGN: Therefore, stool samples of 98 patients were collected prospectively. Specific HCV primers were used to identify samples positive for HCV RNA. HCV RNA-positive samples were tested for HCVcoreAg with the Architect HCVAg assay (Abbott). Presence of occult blood was investigated by the hemoCARE guajak test. Viral stability and infectivity of recombinant HCV particles was investigated in vitro by incubation of genotype 2a chimeric virus Jc1 with bile and stool suspensions.

RESULTS: HCV RNA could be detected in 68 out of 98 stool samples from patients with chronic hepatitis C and 16 samples also tested positive for HCVcoreAg. Presence of HCV RNA in stool was more frequent in male than in female and in patients with low platelet counts but was not associated with the detection of occult blood. Stool suspensions and to a lesser extent bile reduced the in vitro infectivity of genotype 2a chimeric Jc1 virus even though infection of Huh7 cells was not completely abrogated.

CONCLUSIONS: In summary, this study shows for the first time that HCV can frequently be detected in stool samples of chronically infected patients irrespective of occult bleeding. We suggest that stool can be a potential source for HCV infection and thus unprotected anal intercourse should be avoided.

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