Tissue viral load variability in chronic hepatitis C

L Fanning, J Loane, E Kenny-Walsh, M Sheehan, M Whelton, W Kirwan, J K Collins, F Shanahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Liver biopsy is regarded as the gold standard for assessing disease activity in chronic hepatitis C, but sampling error is a potential limitation. Whether sampling variability applies equally to viral load assessment as it does to histology is uncertain. To examine this, we compared viral load between right- and left-lobe biopsy specimens from patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV).

METHODS: Bilobe biopsies were taken from 16 patients who were serum positive for HCV RNA by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Genotype was identified by reverse line probe hybridization. There was an absence of competing risk factors for infectious and other liver diseases in this patient group. Histology and hepatic viral load were assessed blindly. None of the patients had received antiviral therapy at the time of study.

RESULTS: Detection of HCV in right and left lobes was concordant with serum positivity in all cases. The viral load between lobes was highly correlated (p = 0.0003, r = 0.79). In contrast, the histological activity indices of inflammation and fibrosis/cirrhosis were poorly correlated between lobes (p = 0.038, r = 0.60, and p = 0.098, r = 0.50, respectively).

CONCLUSION: Hepatic viral load variability does not suffer from the same degree of heterogeneity of sampling variability as does histology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3384-9
Number of pages6
JournalThe American Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2001


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood
  • Female
  • Fibrosis
  • Hepacivirus
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic
  • Humans
  • Liver
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Viral Load


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