Researchers have identified a better way to treat chronic hepatitis C in patients who are also infected with HIV.
Co-authored by a UC Medical Center
investigator, a report in the July 29 issue of the New England Journal
of Medicine shows that the preferred treatment for hepatitis C alone is
also safe for patients with both hepatitis C and HIV.
"Not long ago, treating HIV patients for
hepatitis C was an afterthought, because they usually died of AIDS
before developing complications from hepatitis C," said Kenneth
Sherman, MD, PhD, director of the Division of Digestive Diseases and
co-author of the article. "But with the advent of better anti-HIV
medications," he said, "these patients are living longer and are more
susceptible to complications from hepatitis C."
Until recently the accepted treatment for
hepatitis C/HIV was standard interferon, a group of proteins from white
blood cells that prevent a virus from spreading, plus the antiviral
But when standard interferon was replaced
with a variant known as peg-interferon-which stays in the body
longer-the response in hepatitis C/HIV-infected patients was so
dramatic that peg-interferon became the preferred treatment.
Prior to this study, limited data were
available on the benefit and safety of peg-interferon and ribavirin in
Implications of this study are huge.
Anti-HIV drugs are helping HIV patients to live longer, but as a
result, they are more likely to suffer complications from hepatitis
C-including severe liver damage resulting in the need for transplant.
UC is already participating in a study to design proper protocol for
liver transplants in HIV patients, but finding a better treatment for
hepatitis C may eliminate the need for this costly procedure in some
The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) estimate that hepatitis C infects about 25,000
Americans annually and is responsible for about 8,000 to 10,000 deaths
per year. Some 3.9 million Americans have been infected with hepatitis
C, 2.7 million of whom are chronically infected, according to the CDC.
It is also estimated that of the 1 million HIV-infected Americans,
about 300,000 are also infected with hepatitis C.
The study was funded by the National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the National
Center for Research Resources (NCRR), both agencies of the National
Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAID's Adult AIDS Clinical Trials Group
conducted the study at 21 research centers in the United States.