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Validation of a sensitive and specific real-time PCR for detection and quantitation of hepatitis B virus covalently closed circular DNA in plasma of chronic hepatitis B patients



Validation of a sensitive and specific real-time PCR for detection and quantitation of hepatitis B virus covalently closed circular DNA in plasma of chronic hepatitis B patients



Journal of Medical Virology 81(6): 988-995



Hepatitis B virus (HBV) covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) serves as a template for viral replication and plays a role in persistence of HBV infection. The origin and significance of cccDNA in plasma however, is not well understood. A sensitive, specific, and reproducible real-time PCR for detection and quantitation of cccDNA in plasma of chronic hepatitis B patients was developed and validated. Four HBV DNA reference panels, and 96 plasma samples of chronic hepatitis B patients were analyzed. Results were compared with total HBV DNA levels, individual ALT levels and the Histology Activity Index (HAI). This cccDNA assay had a lower limit of detection at 15 copies/PCR, a lower limit of quantitation at 91 copies/PCR and a correlation coefficient (R) of 0.98 (P < 0.0001). cccDNA was detected in two of four international panels. Significant correlation was found between cccDNA and total HBV DNA levels in both panels (R = 0.96, and R = 0.43) and in samples of the chronic hepatitis B patients (R = 0.88, P < 0.0001). In 57% of these samples cccDNA was detectable. Mean level of cccDNA was 0.16% of total HBV load. Plasma cccDNA levels were higher in HBeAg positive samples than in HBeAg negative samples (4.91 log copies/ml vs. 3.88 log copies/ml, P < 0.0001). Levels of total HBV DNA and HBV genotype did not influence cccDNA detection. ALT levels and HAI-score were not correlated with plasma cccDNA levels. These findings suggest that cccDNA levels in plasma are not the result of increased hepatocyte degeneration, but indicate that other mechanisms might be responsible.

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Accession: 060455805

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PMID: 19382261

DOI: 10.1002/jmv.21477


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