Findings from a new study recently published in the journal Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official journal American Gastroenterological Association, determined that a novel blood test is able to predict which patients with chronic hepatitis C respond to treatment with interferon.
“While highly effective direct-acting antivirals have become the new standard of care for patients with hepatitis C, these treatments come with a hefty price tag,” said lead study author Philipp Solbach, MD, from Hannover Medical School, Niedersachsen, Germany. “There may still be a role for the more affordable interferon-based therapies, and with this new information, we can better assess which patients will respond to this less-expensive treatment.”
The team examined a sample of patients infected with HCV who received treatment with interferon, with results showing that the levels of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in the blood were able to predict treatment response. LDL can be identified with a simple blood test and can be used as an oxidized LDL marker.
Once the researchers established oxidized LDL as a treatment response marker, they analyzed the transmission of LDL from cell to cell in an in vitro culture system and discovered that the oxidized LDL was able to inhibit the spread of oxidized LDL cell to cell indicating that exists a mechanism underlying the association of oxidized LDL with a sustained interferon therapy viral response.
“The study provides important information about the mechanism whereby HCV infection occurs,” added Rebecca G. Wells, MD, associate editor of Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology in a news release. “While direct-acting antivirals are coming to the forefront in HCV therapy, this study serves an important role in advancing our understanding of this complex virus.”
These new findings open up the potential for the development of new drugs that are able to inhibit the entry of a virus into the cells that could be useful as an add-on to interferon treatment in patients suffering from hepatitis C, as well as other chronic viral infections. However, as the authors noted, other studies should test entry-inhibiting drugs.
Chronic hepatitis C affects approximately 160 million people worldwide. The infection is a leading cause of death from end-stage liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma.