Scientists at the National Institutes of Health have identified several factors in people infected with the hepatitis C virus that may predict whether the unusually rapid progression of disease from initial infection to severe liver conditions, such as cirrhosis, will occur. Knowing whether a patient's condition is likely to deteriorate quickly could help physicians decide on the best course of treatment.
The study was conducted by an international team of researchers led by Patrizia Farci, M.D., chief of the Hepatic Pathogenesis Section in the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH; and Harvey Alter, M.D., chief of clinical studies and associate director of research in the Department of Transfusion Medicine at the NIH Clinical Center. Their findings appeared online July 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Treatment for hepatitis C is often expensive and poorly tolerated," said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "Tools that would enable physicians to better predict the course of disease progression in hepatitis C patients would help guide treatment decisions. This small study is a potentially important step in developing such tools."
Symptoms of acute infection with the hepatitis C virus, one of five viruses that cause acute and chronic hepatitis, include fatigue, jaundice and loss of appetite. Between 70 and 80 percent of people infected with the hepatitis C virus develop chronic infection, which over a patient's lifetime may result in severe liver diseases, such as liver cancer and cirrhosis. The World Health Organization estimates that 130 million to 170 million people live with chronic hepatitis C. Approximately 2.7 million to 3.9 million of those people live in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After a person is infected with hepatitis C, the virus evolves and ci
|Contact: Nalini Padmanabhan|
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases