A highly sensitive second-generation hepatitis C virus (HCV) core antigen assay has recently been developed. We compared viral disappearance and first-phase kinetics between commercially available core antigen (Ag) assays, Lumipulse Ortho HCV Ag (Lumipulse-Ag), and a quantitative HCV RNA PCR assay, Cobas Amplicor HCV Monitor test, version 2 (Amplicor M), to estimate the predictive benefit of a sustained viral response (SVR) and non-SVR in 44 genotype 1b patients treated with interferon (IFN) and ribavirin. HCV core Ag negativity could predict SVR on day 1 (sensitivity = 100%, specificity = 85.0%, accuracy = 86.4%), whereas RNA negativity could predict SVR on day 7 (sensitivity = 100%, specificity = 87.2%, accuracy = 88.6%). None of the patients who had detectable serum core Ag or RNA on day 14 achieved SVR (specificity = 100%). The predictive accuracy on day 14 was higher by RNA negativity (93.2%) than that by core Ag negativity (75.0%). The combined predictive criterion of both viral load decline during the first 24 h and basal viral load was also predictive for SVR; the sensitivities of Lumipulse-Ag and Amplicor-M were 45.5 and 47.6%, respectively, and the specificity was 100%. Amplicor-M had better predictive accuracy than Lumipulse-Ag in 2-week disappearance tests because it had better sensitivity. On the other hand, estimates of kinetic parameters were similar regardless of the detection method. Although the correlations between Lumipulse-Ag and Amplicor-M were good both before and 24 h after IFN administration, HCV core Ag seemed to be relatively lower 24 h after IFN administration than before administration. Lumipulse-Ag seems to be useful for detecting the HCV concentration during IFN therapy; however, we still need to understand the characteristics of the assay.
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