HIV patients are not at risk of neurocognitive impairment from a co-infection of hepatitis C virus (HCV), according to a study, titled, “Absence of neurocognitive effect of hepatitis C infection in HIV-coinfected people” conducted by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is published in the journal Neurology. The effects of suffering from both HCV and HIV has been widely studied, and the conclusions of this study give new insights to the neurocognitive performance of HCV-HIV patients.
The research team concluded that a co-infection with HIV and HCV does not cause neurocognitive impairment, in the absence of substantial liver damage associated with HCV. “Hepatitis C infection has serious long-term side effects, such as damage to the liver, but our research indicates that it does not affect the brain,” explained the lead author of the study David Clifford, M.D. “If a hepatitis C infection gets to the point where it damages liver function, the resulting inflammation might well contribute to mental impairment. Beyond that, though, it doesn’t seem to be an active collaborator in the harm HIV does to the brain.” Clifford also serves as a professor of neurology and medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine.
In order to assess the effects of co-infection on neurocognitive impairment, the scientists analyzed data from 1,582 patients, chronically infected with HIV, with approximately one quarter of them infected as well with HCV; and concluded that, within the HCV-seropositive participants, there was no correlation between neurocognitive performance and serum HCV RNA concentration.
The next step for the researchers is to continue the studies based on immune responses in the brain, as well as in the bowel, which happens during the first phases of HIV, and tends to be triggered by the infection. Clifford and his team aims to increase knowledge on the possibility of these early immune responses, which may be triggering chronic inflammation that is harmful for the brain.
HIV-HCV co-infections received the attention of several scientists, with another research team from a clinic in Madrid, Spain recently discovering Spanish patients are more difficult to treat than patients from other ethnic groups, due to their genetics. The results of the retrospective analysis were presented at the AASLD/ EASL Special Conference on Hepatitis C, in New York.
In addition, a recent report called “Seroprevalence of hepatitis B and C viruses and risk factors in HIV infected children at the felgehiwot referral hospital, Ethiopia” noted the tendency of HIV positive children to also be affected by HBV and HCV in Ethiopia, providing new insights on the diseases in Africa, as well as how best to improve diagnostics and treatment.