Background. The presence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) remains controversial. We determined the presence of the negative HCV RNA strand in PBMCs from a group of HCV-positive patients before and after liver transplantation. Methods. Nine patients receiving orthotopic liver transplantation for end-stage HCV- related liver disease were studied. PBMCs were collected on the day of transplantation and 1 month later. The negative HCV RNA strand was detected by highly strand-specific Tth-based reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Results. All nine patients were positive for the presence of the HCV RNA-positive strand in serum and PBMCs both before and after transplantation. The presence of the negative HCV RNA strand was documented in three PBMC samples after transplantation but in none of the samples collected before transplantation. Conclusion. Our results suggest that under circumstances of impaired immunity associated with pharmacological immunosuppression, HCV may be lymphotropic in vivo.
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