It means the test they used for your PCR has a sensitivity of <50, which means the test will detect viral load down to 50 IU/ml and if you have less than 50, the test is unable to detect it. At this point, your viral load is <50 IU/ml and you could be clear, however your test can only tell you that you have <50 IU/ml. It's a good result, however you might want to ask for another test with as low a sensitivity as you can get, particularly at this 12 week mark.
Here is a link to a discussion on the various tests available. Hope this helps:
<50 literally means “less than 50. If this is indeed the test result, then you are HCV RNA undetectable to 50 [IU/mL]. <50 IU/mL is the lower limit of detection for many PCR tests; chances are this is the case with you. If the test your doctor ordered has a reference range of say, <5 IU/mL, you then potentially have a small amount of virus remaining. I imagine it is the former, so a cautious congratulations to you.
"<50" means your undetectible to the limit of the test, so congratulations! This is the best result possible from the test you took.
No test goes down to zero, and the test you took is fairly sensitive. In fact, it's the same sensitivity that most of the European trials used up until recently.
As mentioned, you might ask your doctor for one of the even more sensitive tests in a month or so. Two good ones from Quest Diagnostics Labs are "Heptimax" and "HCV RNA QUALITATIVE TMA". LabCorp also has a couple of very sensitive tests as well.
A lot of progressive liver specialists test monthly during treatment using one of the more sensitive tests like the ones mentioned. You might ask your doctor for the same.
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