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Sexual transmission of HCV is still controversial and probably rare.
Aim: To detect HCV RNA in semen and its constituants, seminal plasma and spermatozoa, and to correlate the presence of HCV RNA in semen with viraemia levels. Patients, methods: 25 HCV viraemic patients with chronic hepatitis C were studied. HCV viraemia was quantified by Amplicor-Monitor^{TM} HCV (Roche). The two different fractions of the semen samples were obtained by centrifugation. HCV RNA was assessed by RT nested PCR in both semen fractions, by in situ hybridization in spermatozoa, and by branched DNA method (bDNA, Chiron) in seminal plasma. For each patient, serum and semen were studied on the same day.

Results: All patients were HCV viraemic and 4/25 (16%) had high viraemia levels (>500 000 eq ARN/ml by Monitor). Whatever the viraemia level, HCV RNA by PCR was negative in both seminal plasma and spermatozoa. As RT nested PCR failed to detect HCV RNA in seminal plasma after addition of titrated HCV viraemic sera, we concluded that an inhibitor of PCR method exists in that semen fraction. Such inhibition was not found in spermatozoa. HCV RNA was negative by branched DNA in all but one seminal plasma sample, but it was a false positive by non specific hybridization. In situ hybridization in spermatozoa failed to detect positive or negative HCV RNA strands.

Conclusions: 1/PCR method in the whole semen and seminal plasma has no value in detecting HCV RNA because of an inhibition of PCR. 2/HCV RNA was neither detected by bDNA, thus HCV RNA in semen is probably absent or at a very low level. 3/HCV RNA was not detected in spermatozoa either by PCR or by in situ hybridization. That result is important when discussing in vitro fecondation.

Debono E^{1}, Halfon P^{2}, Gerolami-Santandrea V^{2}, Gastaldi-Plannels M^{3}, Castellani P^{1}, Bourliere M^{4}, Cartouzou G^{2}, Gauthier A^{1}, Botta-Fridlund D^{1}. ^{1}Gastroenterology and Liver Unit, ^{2}Biochemical Laboratory, Conception Hospital, Marseille, ^{3}Molecular Biology Laboratory, Timone University, Marseille. ^{4}St Joseph Hospital, Marseille

Source: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases - 1996 Annual Meeting

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