Volume 73, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


Sporadic cases of cell-mediated immunity (CMI) in persons exposed to hepatitis C (HCV) but evidently uninfected have been reported. To further define this, we measured CMI in individuals without evidence of HCV infection, that is, negative for HCV-antibodies (anti-HCV) and RNA, residing in a rural Egyptian community where prevalence of anti-HCV was 24%. Cell-mediated immunity (CMI) measured by interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay, confirmed by intracellular staining using flow cytometry, against HCV peptides was measured in seronegative individuals with high-risk (HR) and low-risk (LR) exposures to HCV. Thirteen of 71 (18.3%) HR subjects but only 1 of 35 (2.9%) LR subjects had detectable CMI ( = 0.032). These data are compatible with the hypothesis that exposures to HCV may lead to development of HCV-specific CMI without anti-HCV and ongoing viral replication. We speculate induced CMI clears HCV sometimes when anti-HCV is not detectable, and HCV-specific CMI is a useful surrogate marker for exposure to HCV.


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  • Received : 17 Nov 2004
  • Accepted : 08 Feb 2005

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