Aim: The study aimed to evaluate the clinical utility of the chemiluminescent HCV core Ag test compared to viral load assessment in the management of patients with chronic hepatitis C.

Methods: A retrospective study was performed at a tertiary-care infectious diseases hospital on samples collected from anti-HCV positive patients. Seventy-six samples were tested with the Architect HCV core Antigen kit and Cobas AmpliPrep/Cobas Taqman HCV kit. The HCV Ag test accuracy was estimated using data from all the HCV RNA tested samples received between January 2011 and December 2012.

 The HCV Ag test showed a good correlation between the logarithmic values of HCV RNA and HCV Ag (R=0.98), with a 100% specificity and PPV, but with reduced sensitivity for viral loads lower than 1,000 UI/ mL. In a model using data from 2,478 HCV RNA tested samples and a cut-off of the Ag assay corresponding to 1,000 UI/mL HCV RNA, the Ag test would have a sensitivity of 82.4%, a NPV of 80.9% and a high specificity and PPV (100%) compared to the viral load. The sensitivity would be higher for baseline evaluation compared to on-treatment samples (98.5 vs. 50%). The highest NPV (98%) would be obtained at 48 and 72 weeks after the initiation of treatment, with a sensitivity of 88.2% and 96.1%, respectively.

Conclusion: The Architect HCV core Ag assay might be an alternative for the diagnosis of active HCV infection if molecular tests are not available, and a useful method for the evaluation of sustained virological response in treated patients.


hepatitis C, HCV core antigen, HCV viral load