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New Diagnostic for HCV?

Researchers say they have found a new and potentially cheaper and better way to diagnose HCV.

A group of researchers has developed a recombinant multiepitope protein (rMEHCV) which can be used in the diagnosis of hepatitis C virus (HCV). The researchers, led by Alexsandro Galdino of the Federal University of Sao Joao in Brazil, detailed their work in a paper published recently in the journal Hepatitis Research and Treatment.

The researchers say, “Several Enzyme Immune Assay (EIA) based diagnostic kits are available in the market for detection of HCV antibodies in the plasma; these are based on peptide antigens or recombinant antigens from both structural and nonstructural regions of the viral protein.” However, they add that multiple peptides or recombinant proteins are required for accurate diagnosis, driving up the cost of the EIA kits. They assert that “the development of multiepitope proteins is an attractive approach to reduce the complexity and final costs of such diagnostic kits.”

They used linear and conserved immunodominant epitopes, which, they say, “are known to elicit anti-HCV antibodies.” They further chose epitopes representing the genotypes that are circulating worldwide, but which are particularly common in South America.

“To establish the specificity of rMEHCV, 17 human positive and 10 negative sera samples for anti-HCV were evaluated in triplicate,” the researchers report. They they describe the results, saying, “The results showed that the test kit was able to distinguish positive and negative sera, showing no false-negative or false-positive results as compared to a commercial kit, which essentially yielded the same results.”

The researchers then checked sera samples from patients who had infections other than HCV and say, “no cross-reaction was observed, thus demonstrating the specificity of rMEHCV, a desirable feature for HCV diagnosis.”

“The epitope density derived from different HCV genotypes coupled with a simple purification procedure prompts rMEHCV as a promising alternative for hepatitis C diagnosis, with potential for development of an inexpensive diagnostic test with high degree of specificity,” conclude the researchers.

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