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Impact of Storage Time in DBS and DPS for Point-of-Care HCV RNA Quantification and HCV Core Antigen Detection

The scale-up of hepatitis C virus (HCV) diagnosis and treatment requires affordable and simple tools to improve access to care, especially in low- and middle-income settings with limited infrastructure or high-risk populations. Dried blood and plasma samples (DBS and DPS) are useful alternative for hepatitis C detection in settings lacking adequate infrastructure. A study evaluated the performance of DBS and DPS vs plasma in a point-of-care HCV RNA quantitative assay (Xpert HCV Viral Load-Cepheid), and compared HCV core antigen (HCVcAg) detection by the Architect HCV core antigen assay (Abbott) in DBS vs serum. The dried samples were stored at room temperature for different storage times to reproduce the time from sampling to testing in settings with centralized diagnosis or when testing mobile populations. HCV RNA quantification in DBS and DPS presented 100% sensitivity and specificity and a high correlation for up to 3 months of storage. HCV viremia showed a mean decrease of 0.5 log10 IU/mL (DBS) and 0.3 log10 IU/mL (DPS) for storage times up to 1 month. Architect HCVcAg detection presented high sensitivity/specificity (96%/100%) in DBS tested immediately after sampling, decreasing to 86% sensitivity after 7 days of storage. However, sensitivity increased when an optimized cut-off was applied for each storage time. Research team concluded that DBS and DPS are suitable samples for HCV RNA detection and quantification, being DPS more reliable for shorter storage times. DBS can be also used for HCVcAg qualitative detection and the sensitivity can be increased when adjusting the cut-off values.

Access full study results, published in Microbiology Spectrum, here.