January 16, 1991

Tests Help Nail Down HCV—but Not Entirely

JAMA. 1991;265(3):312. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460030014006

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WHEN HEPATITIS C virus (HCV) was discovered a little more than 1 year ago (Science. 1989;244:359-361), there was hope that most if not all non-A, non-B cases of the disease could be accurately detected and ascribed to it. Since that time, the development of a blood screening test for the virus has provided an answer for many cases but has in others led to new questions. Particularly puzzling is why not everyone who seemingly ought to show positivity to the newly recognized virus does so.

A "spectrum of studies" show that 40% to 55% of individuals with chronic liver diseases, cirrhosis and primary liver cell cancer cases are positive for HCV, says Eugene R. Schiff, MD, chief of hepatology at the University of Miami in Florida. About 30% of patients with alcoholic liver disease are positive for HCV as well.

In Japan, where liver cancer is much more common, 70%