DOI: 10.1128/spectrum.01748-23 ISSN:

Impact of storage time in dried blood samples (DBS) and dried plasma samples (DPS) for point-of-care hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA quantification and HCV core antigen detection

Paloma Troyano-Hernáez, Pedro Herrador, Francisco Gea, Beatriz Romero-Hernández, Gabriel Reina, Agustín Albillos, Juan Carlos Galán, África Holguín
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Cell Biology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Genetics
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Ecology
  • Physiology


The scale-up of hepatitis C virus (HCV) diagnosis and treatment requires affordable and simple tools to improve access to care, especially in low- and middle-income settings with limited infrastructure or high-risk populations. Dried blood and plasma samples (DBS and DPS) are useful alternative for hepatitis C detection in settings lacking adequate infrastructure. We evaluated the performance of DBS and DPS vs plasma in a point-of-care HCV RNA quantitative assay (Xpert HCV Viral Load-Cepheid), and compared HCV core antigen (HCVcAg) detection by the Architect HCV core antigen assay (Abbott) in DBS vs serum. The dried samples were stored at room temperature for different storage times to reproduce the time from sampling to testing in settings with centralized diagnosis or when testing mobile populations. HCV RNA quantification in DBS and DPS presented 100% sensitivity and specificity and a high correlation for up to 3 months of storage. HCV viremia showed a mean decrease of 0.5 log 10 IU/mL (DBS) and 0.3 log 10 IU/mL (DPS) for storage times up to 1 month. Architect HCVcAg detection presented high sensitivity/specificity (96%/100%) in DBS tested immediately after sampling, decreasing to 86% sensitivity after 7 days of storage. However, sensitivity increased when an optimized cut-off was applied for each storage time. We conclude that DBS and DPS are suitable samples for HCV RNA detection and quantification, being DPS more reliable for shorter storage times. DBS can be also used for HCVcAg qualitative detection and the sensitivity can be increased when adjusting the cut-off values.


Hepatitis C infection remains a global burden despite the effectiveness of antivirals. In the WHO roadmap to accomplish HCV elimination by 2030, HCV diagnosis is one of the main targets. However, identifying patients in resource-limited settings and high-risk populations with limited access to healthcare remains a challenge and requires innovative approaches that allow decentralized testing. The significance of our research is in verifying the good performance of dried samples for HCV diagnosis using two different diagnostics assays and considering the effect of room temperature storage in this sample format. We confirmed dried samples are an interesting alternative for HCV screening and reflex testing in resource-limited settings or high-risk populations.

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