• E. O. Odari Department of Botany, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi, Kenya
  • M. Ochwotto Kenya Medical Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya
  • N. L. M. Budambula Department of Botany, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi, Kenya
  • H. Nitschko 3Max von Pettenkofer-institut, Germany
  • J.H. Kimotho Kenya Medical Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya
Keywords: Hepatitis C virus, Fresh and archived samples, Nucleic Acid based Techniques, blood transfusion, blood bank samples


A low prevalence of Hepatitis C virus infection ranging from 0.1% to 0.9% has continuously been reported in the
Kenyan population. Several studies have however concentrated on special groups like Intravenous Drug Users (IDUs)
and blood bank samples, with no major study carried out in the general population. This study aimed at testing and
comparing results of fresh and archived Hepatitis C infected samples obtained both from patients in Kenya and in
Germany. Fresh and archived samples in Kenya were obtained from patients attending the liver clinic at the Kenyatta
National Hospital and those stored at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), respectively. Fresh and archived
samples from Germany were obtained from patients attending HCV treatment at the two main Ludwig Maximillian
University hospitals in Germany and those stored at the Max von Pettenkofer Institute (MvPI)- Munich Germany,
Freshly obtained samples were subjected to serological assays by Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent assay platforms
(Ortho HCV 3.0 ELISA test system with an enhanced SAVe and AxSYM ELISA test system, for German samples and
Murex ELISA test system, for Kenyan Samples) commonly used in each individual country before subjecting all the
samples to a similar nested PCR diagnosis. All the archived samples had also been subjected to PCR diagnosis and
confirmed positive at least once in the course of their storage. A total of 25 and 50 samples from Kenya and
Germany, respectively, were tested and compared. All the 50 (100%) ELISA positive German samples were again
confirmed PCR positive in the standardized PCR diagnostic system, whereas Kenyan samples realized varied results.
Despite 100% (4 out of 4) detection by PCR on fresh samples, no detection, 0% (0 out of 21), was realized on the
archived samples. These archived Kenyan samples could not also be detected by the available antibody based rapid
detection kits. Based on the results realized with archived samples, whose conditions are deemed similar to the blood
bank conditions in Kenya, this study asserts that although stored blood bank samples have continuously been used to
estimate the prevalence of Hepatitis C infection in Kenya, this parameter may not be appropriate in estimating the
true prevalence of this infection in the general population. Therefore, the study concludes and recommends the need
to screen and determine the true prevalence of the infection using samples from the general population, since
together with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C infection are emerging as a major point of focus in blood transfusion screening
in Kenya. The study further recommends that together with serological assays, Nucleic Acid based Techniques (NAT)
should be employed in screening all freshly obtained blood before storage.