Rapid detection of hepatitis C virus using recombinase polymerase amplification

Chia CT, Bender AT, Lillis L et al. PLoS One 2022;17(10):e0276582

Over 71 million people are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) worldwide, and approximately 400 000 global deaths result from complications of untreated chronic HCV. Pan-genomic direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) have recently become widely available and feature high cure rates in less than 12 weeks of treatment. The rollout of DAAs is reliant on diagnostic tests for HCV RNA to identify eligible patients with viremic HCV infections. Current PCR-based HCV RNA assays are restricted to well-resourced central laboratories, and there remains a prevailing clinical need for expanded access to decentralized HCV RNA testing to provide rapid chronic HCV diagnosis and linkage to DAAs in outpatient clinics. This paper reports a rapid, highly accurate, and minimally instrumented assay for HCV RNA detection using reverse transcription recombinase polymerase amplification (RT-RPA). The assay detects all HCV genotypes with a limit of detection of 25 copies per reaction for genotype 1, the most prevalent in the United States and worldwide. The clinical sensitivity and specificity of the RT-RPA assay were both 100% when evaluated using 78 diverse clinical serum specimens. The accuracy, short runtime, and low heating demands of RT-RPA may enable implementation in a point-of-care HCV test to expand global access to effective treatment via rapid chronic HCV diagnosis.