Assay of hepatitis B virus DNA by polymerase chain reaction and its relationship to pre-S- and S-encoded viral surface antigens.Hepatology. 1991 Jan; 13(1):158-66.Hep
The polymerase chain reaction was evaluated as a diagnostic tool in 72 chronic hepatitis B virus carriers. Hepatitis B virus DNA was detectable in the serum of HBsAg-positive virus carriers using aliquots as small as 100 al. The detection limit for cloned hepatitis B virus DNA was 100 ag. Primer pairs for different regions of the HBV genome resulted in different sensitivity. Detection of the amplified hepatitis B virus DNA by Southern blotting and subsequent scintillation counting or densitometry allowed a semiquantitative assay. Using several primer pairs in parallel for optimal detection, all HBeAg-positive HBsAg carriers, 80% of HBe antibody-positive symptomatic HBsAg carriers and 57% of asymptomatic HBe antibody-positive HBsAg carriers were found to have hepatitis B virus DNA in the serum. During antiviral therapy hepatitis B virus DNA disappeared by the polymerase chain reaction assay in patients who became HBeAg negative, but polymerase chain reaction detected a relapse earlier than did the conventional dot blot. Pre-S antigens were assayed in serum and liver samples from most chronic carriers by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and/or immunoblot. Although most viremic carriers were strongly positive for pre-S1 and pre-S2 antigens, some hepatitis B virus DNA-positive HBsAg carriers did not have detectable pre-S antigens, and vice versa. Our data show that assay of hepatitis B virus DNA in the serum by polymerase chain reaction is by far more proficient than by dot blot and that it cannot be replaced by serological assays of HBeAg or pre-S antigen.