Two new studies in the April issue of Hepatology explore the ways that hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) can be cleared from patients' bodies. Hepatology is a journal published by John Wiley & Sons on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). The articles are also available online at Wiley Interscience (www.interscience.wiley.com).
Both HBV and HCV are global health problems. They can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer and they cause millions of deaths each year. Treatments to contain or cure these infections have been difficult to find. Researchers continue to explore potential therapies and the immune system response to the diseases.
The first new study sheds light on the immunological response to coinfection with HBV and HCV. Researchers led by Evangelista Sagnelli of Naples, Italy, report that for patients with chronic HCV, HBV superinfection can lead to clearance of the HCV.
They compared 29 HCV patients to 29 people, matched by age, gender and risk factors, who did not have HCV. All of the patients developed acute HBV during the same time period. The patients with HCV were more likely to have a severe course of illness, and one died of liver failure. However, nearly a quarter (six out of 24) emerged HCV-free.
"Extensive acute hepatocellular necrosis, although life-threatening, may lead to a clearance of chronic HCV infection," the authors report. Still, the severity of acute HBV in HCV patients raises "the concern that this clinical event could become an emerging health care problem in countries with a wide spread of both HBV and HCV infection," they write.
"Further efforts should be made to extend the use of HBV vaccination in patients with chronic HCV infection" they also suggest.
The second study, headed by Maurizia Brunetto of Pisa, Italy, recommends interferon-based therapies as a first-
|Contact: Sean Wagner|