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Occult HCV infection is defined as the persistent presence of detectable HCV RNA in hepatocytes or peripheral blood mononuclear cells of patients with undetectable plasma HCV-RNA by conventional PCR assays.
Occult HCV infection may occur in the general population apparently disease free. The presence of viral replicative ability in PBMCs could represent a potential risk of HCV spread through transfusion, haemodialysis , or of liver disease evolution (e.g. liver neoplasia) in occult HCV infected subjects.
The main aim of this study was to identify occult HCV infection among apparently healthy spouses of chronic HCV infected patients by detecting HCV RNA in PBMC using real time PCR.
This study was conducted in the gastroenterology and hepatology unit, Internal Medicine Department, Ain Shams University Hospitals on 50 apparently healthy spouses of chronic HCV infected patients.
It was found that the prevalence of occult HCV infection in apparently healthy sexual partners of chronic HCV patients was 4% with equal sex distribution.
It was also noticed that there was no relation between the occurrence of occult HCV infection and age, gender, duration of marriage nor frequency of sexual intercourse but occult HCV infection was strongly correlated with sexual transmitted diseases.
According to these results, It is recommended to screen apparently healthy sexual partners of chronic HCV infected patients by HCV RNA testing in PBMCs using real time PCR.