Detection of HCV-RNA in paraffin-embedded liver biopsies from patients with autoimmune hepatitis

Kay Savage*, Amar P. Dhillon, Hemda Schmilovitz-Weiss, Mohamed El-Batanony, David Brown, Geoffrey Dusheiko, Peter J. Scheuer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/Aims: There may be a relationship between autoimmune hepatitis and viral infection. To examine this relationship, 19 patients with autoimmune hepatitis and/or chronic hepatitis C were studied. Methods: Patients were selected initially on the basis of having autoantibodies (anti-nuclear, anti-smooth muscle, or anti-liver-kidney microsomal) in serum. Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded liver biopsies from these patients were tested for HCV-RNA by polymerase chain reaction. The biopsies were examined histologically to detect features suggestive of chronic hepatitis C or autoimmune hepatitis. The results were correlated with serum anti-HCV and HCV-RNA, and with response to steroid therapy. Results: Five of the nineteen patients had detectable HCV-RNA in their liver biopsies. In two of three patients from whom serum was available, HCV-RNA was detectable. The remaining 14 patients were negative for HCV-RNA by tissue polymerase chain reaction. Serum was available from 11 of these patients, and serum HCV-RNA was negative in all. All of the three HCV-RNA-positive patients who were treated with steroids showed a partial response; tissue positivity for HCV-RNA was significantly higher in partial responders than in complete responders (60% vs 0%, p=0.01). Severe portal and periportal inflammation with prominent plasma cells together with bridging parenchymal necrosis were seen more often in HCV-negative biopsies. Mild portal and periportal inflammation with portal lymphoid aggregates apoptosis and spotty parenchymal necrosis were seen more in HCV-positive biopsies. Conclusions: These results show that hepatitic C virus can be detected in some patients with circulating auto-antibodies. The ability to detect HCV-RNA in paraffin-embedded archival material provides a valuable addition to the battery of available HCV tests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-34
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Hepatitis
  • Hepatitis C virus
  • Histology
  • Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction
  • Tissue polymerase chain reaction


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