Hepatitis C virus core antigen (HCV Ag) is a recently developed marker of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. We investigated the clinical utility of the new HCV Ag assay for prediction of treatment response in HCV infection. We analyzed serum from 92 patients with HCV infection who had been treated with pegylated interferon and ribavirin. HCV Ag levels were determined at baseline in all enrolled patients and at week 4 in 15 patients. Baseline HCV Ag levels showed good correlations with HCV RNA (r=0.79, P<0.001). Mean HCV Ag levels at baseline were significantly lower in patients with a sustained virologic response (SVR) than in those with a non SVR (relapse plus non responder) based on HCV RNA analysis (2.8 log10fmol/L vs. 3.27 log10fmol/L, P=0.023). Monitoring of the viral kinetics by determination of HCV RNA and HCV Ag levels resulted in similarly shaped curves. Patients with undetectable HCV Ag levels at week 4 had a 92.3% probability of achieving SVR based on HCV RNA assay results. The HCV Ag assay may be used as a supplement for predicting treatment response in HCV infection, but not as an alternative to the HCV RNA assay.
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