Comparison of plasma virus loads among individuals infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotypes 1, 2, and 3 by quantiplex HCV RNA assay versions 1 and 2, Roche Monitor assay, and an in-house limiting dilution method.
Hawkins A., Davidson F., Simmonds P.
The accuracy of different methods for the quantitation of hepatitis C virus in plasma was measured with samples from individuals infected with different genotypes and by using RNA transcripts of predetermined concentrations. Highly reproducible results were observed upon repeat testing of samples by both the original version of the Chiron branched-DNA (bDNA) assay (Quantiplex RNA assay; bDNA-1) and the currently available version (Quantiplex HCV RNA 2.0 assay; bDNA-2). A greater variability was observed in the Roche Monitor assay (correlation coefficient of 0.537, compared with 0.942 and 0.964 for the bDNA-1 and bDNA-2 assays, respectively). Significant differences in the efficiency of detection of genotypes 1, 2, and 3 were observed for the bDNA-1 and Roche Monitor assays, whereas the bDNA-2 assay and nested PCR at limiting dilution were able to quantify genotypes with equal sensitivity. By quantifying RNA transcripts of different genotypes, the sensitivities of the Roche Monitor assay for sequences of the type 2 and type 3 transcripts were estimated to be 11 and 8% of those achieved for genotype 1. When correction factors based upon these results and those from quantitation of circulating viral RNA sequences in samples from blood donors were used, the genotype-specific differences in virus load in samples from blood donors were no longer observed, consistent with previous studies with corrected values from the bDNA-1 assay. These results suggest that many of the previous studies evaluating the effect of genotype and virus load on the response to interferon using methods such as the Roche Monitor assay and other competitive PCR methods require reinterpretation. Differences in efficiency of quantitation should be taken into account in future investigations of the relationship between genotype and virus load.