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A Comparison of Hepatitis C Antibody Test with Hepatitis C RNA Test for Screening of Cornea Donors

1Scholtz S., 1Sistani F., 2Nachbar I., 1Steinhorst U. H.,
1Wilhelm-Fresenius-Klinik, Klinik für Augenheilkunde (Wiesbaden)
2 (Wiesbaden)

Purpose: Since August 2000 all German cornea banks are according to the law obliged to perform a Hepatitis C RNA test in addition to Hepatitis C antibody test for screening of cornea donors. For this purpose postmortem blood of the donor is being used. Still it is unknown how long after death RNA molecules of the virus could be isolated from the blood. Positive results of this test lead to an exclusion of potential donors. We evaluated the compatibility of the results of these two tests.
Method: The compatibility of the results of Hepatitis C RNA test and Hepatitis C antibody test were evaluated for 59 cornea donors between 09/01/2000 and 04/01/2002.
Results: No specimen was tested positive for Hep. C antibodies. In 7 cases virus-RNA was detected and those corneas could not be cleared for transplantation.
Conclusions: There was no compatibility of the results of these two tests in our series. Different reasons could lead to a false positive or a false negative result of the RNA test. On one hand, contamination of the blood e.g. by fat inside the blood canula could disturb the very sensitive test. On the other hand, it is still unknown, for how long postmortem the antigens of the virus are detectable in the blood. Further investigations are needed to exactly define the time interval for a reliable detection of these particles.