Early detection of hepatitis C allograft reinfection after orthotopic liver transplantation: A molecular and histologic study

Ruben Bonilla Guerrero, Kenneth P. Batts, Lawrence J. Burgart, Susan L. Barrett, Jeffrey J. Germer, John J. Poterucha, Russell H. Wiesner, Michael R. Charlton, David H. Persing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

59 Scopus citations


After orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT), patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection show nearly universal persistence of viremia and reinfection of the liver, but identifying the point at which the liver is reinfected morphologically can be difficult. One tool that may potentially be useful to detect reinfection is reverse transcriptase- polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), which has proven to be highly sensitive for detecting HCV RNA in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded liver tissue. Our purpose was to gain insight into the time frame of HCV reinfection by assaying for HCV RNA in serial posttransplant liver biopsy specimens. Our study population consisted of 14 patients who underwent liver transplantation for hepatitis C and had confirmed HCV RNA in pretransplant serum, absence of HCV RNA in donor livers, and available consecutive posttransplant liver allograft specimens. We performed RT-PCR for HCV RNA in serial posttransplant liver biopsy specimens, beginning at 1 week until at least one biopsy from each tested positive. HCV RNA was detected in liver tissue by RT-PCR in 1- week post-OLT liver samples in 6 of 14 (42.8%) patients, the earliest being 5 days post-OLT. Eventually, each of the remaining eight samples became RT-PCR positive as well; the first detections occurred in these at 3 weeks (three cases), 4 weeks (three cases), 48 weeks (one case), and 144 weeks (one case). Histologic identification of hepatitis C recurrence was relatively insensitive in relation to these molecular data. These data suggest that (1) HCV RNA reinfection is nearly universal after liver transplantation in patients with chronic hepatitis C infection, (2) molecular reinfection by HCV occurs at a variable interval post-OLT, with the majority of allograft livers reinfected as early as 1 week, and (3) morphologic features of hepatitis C are usually appreciable at the time of 'molecular' recurrence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-237
Number of pages9
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2000



  • Hepatitis C virus
  • Liver transplantation
  • Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

Cite this

Guerrero, R. B., Batts, K. P., Burgart, L. J., Barrett, S. L., Germer, J. J., Poterucha, J. J., Wiesner, R. H., Charlton, M. R., & Persing, D. H. (2000). Early detection of hepatitis C allograft reinfection after orthotopic liver transplantation: A molecular and histologic study. Modern Pathology, 13(3), 229-237. https://doi.org/10.1038/modpathol.3880043