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Statins stop hepatitis C virus from replicating

A new study shows that statins, which are typically used as anti-cholesterol medications, can inhibit the replication of the hepatitis C virus (HCV). They could replace ribavirin in combination therapy with interferon. These findings are published in the July 2006 issue of Hepatology, the official journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hepatology is available online via Wiley InterScience at http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/hepatology.

Currently, 170 million people worldwide are infected with HCV. The standard treatment is a combination therapy of interferon and ribavirin, which is only effective in about 55 percent of patients. The remaining 45 percent face a threat of the disease progressing to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Based on recent reports that one statin, lovastatin, inhibits HCV replication, researchers led by Masanori Ikeda of Okayama University in Japan, tested other statins in search of a more effective anti-HCV therapy.

Using the OR6 cell culture assay system, they evaluated the anti-HCV activities of five statins: atorvastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin and simvastatin. When the statins were tested alone, all except pravastatin inhibited HCV replication. Fluvastatin had the strongest effect. Atorvastatin and simvastatin had moderate effects while lovastatin had a weak effect. While pravastatin exhibited no anti-HCV activity, it did work as an inhibitor for HMG-CoA reductase, suggesting that the anti-HCV activities of the other stains are not due to the direct inhibition of HMG-CoA.

The researchers determined that the anti-HCV activities of statins were not related to cytotoxicity, meaning they did not kill the host cell. Additional experiments also suggested that, "the statins possess the ability to inhibit the replication of HCV RNA via a specific antiviral mechan
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Source:John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


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