Discovery could improve hepatitis C treatment

Sep 23, 2009
Dr. Melanie Bahlo from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute is part of an international team that has discovered a genetic variation that could identify those people infected with hepatitis C who are most likely to benefit from current treatments. Credit: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researchers are part of an international team that has discovered a genetic variation that could identify those people infected with hepatitis C who are most likely to benefit from current treatments.

Dr Melanie Bahlo and Dr Max Moldovan from the institute's Bioinformatics division worked with researchers from the University of Sydney and elsewhere to analyse the genomes of more than 800 people, including more than 300 Australians, who were receiving treatment for chronic .

Their genome-wide association study of people receiving hepatitis C treatment revealed that genetic variants near the interferon gene IL28B were associated with people's response to treatment.

Three per cent of the world's people are infected with hepatitis C and few are able to clear the virus without treatment.

The standard treatment is a combination of pegylated interferon-alpha and ribavirin (PEG-IFN-alpha/RBV). However this treatment is expensive ($20,000 per person in Australia), can have serious adverse effects and is unsuccessful in 50-60 per cent of cases.

At present it is not possible to identify the 40-50 per cent of people who will respond well to treatment.

To address this problem, Dr Moldovan and Dr Bahlo are building and evaluating statistical models that incorporate genetic variants, in combination with clinical and baseline factors, to best predict treatment outcome.

Through this approach the research team found that people having a specific genetic profile at a genetic variant called rs8099917 showed the strongest virological response when undergoing treatment.

The research results were published online last week in the international journal Nature Genetics. Two other research papers validating the same finding have been published in the past month.

Dr Bahlo said with the knowledge of the gene variants it would be possible to develop a diagnostic test, based on a person's , to identify those who are likely to respond to treatment with PEG-IFN-alpha/RBV.

Further, the location of the newly-discovered genetic variant opens the way for development of a more effective hepatitis C treatment, which is likely to result in fewer adverse effects than PEG-IFN-alpha/RBV.

Finding effective treatments is essential as many people infected with become chronic carriers of the disease and may develop liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Source: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Explore further: Niger battles deadly meningitis epidemic

Related Stories

Good news for some hard-to-treat hepatitis C patients

Jun 16, 2009

In a multi-center trial led by a Saint Louis University researcher, investigators found that a new combination therapy of daily consensus interferon and ribavirin helps some hepatitis C patients who have not responded to ...

New treatment option for patients with chronic hepatitis C

May 28, 2009

A new combination therapy of daily consensus interferon (CIFN) and ribavirin is effective for some people with chronic hepatitis C (HCV) who do not respond to standard therapy. The treatment works particularly well in interferon-sensitive ...

Researchers Find New Treatment for Hepatitis C

Apr 11, 2008

Researchers at the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center have found a new use for an old drug. Their findings appear online in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Recommended for you

Niger battles deadly meningitis epidemic

51 minutes ago

Parents cradling sick children in their arms streamed into a treatment centre in Niger's capital Niamey, the victims of a meningitis epidemic that has claimed over 100 lives and appears to be accelerating.

Long lasting anti-hemophilia factor safe in kids

5 hours ago

Children with hemophilia A require three to four infusions each week to prevent bleeding episodes, chronic pain and joint damage. The effect on quality of life can be significant, due to time and discomfort associated with ...

Missouri detective battles flesh-eating infection

10 hours ago

Friends and loved ones of Lee's Summit, Mo., Police Detective Joshua Ward are praying for the 34-year-old married father of three who, even after five surgeries in as many days, remained in critical condition Monday at St. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.