WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center have disproved a long-standing clinical belief that the hepatitis C virus slows or stunts the immune system's ability to restore itself after HIV patients are treated with a combination of drugs known as the "cocktail."
Hepatitis C (HCV) infection is more serious in HIV-infected people, leading to rapid liver damage, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Intravenous drug use is a main method of contraction for both HIV and HCV and 50 to 90 percent of HIV-infected drug users are also infected with HCV.
The Wake Forest Baptist study looked at whether having HCV co-infection impairs immune restoration in patients receiving highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) to suppress their HIV infection. The results appear in the July issue of AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses.
The research focused on levels of CD4 cells, the specific type of immune cell that is attacked by the HIV virus, and their ability to rebuild after HIV is suppressed.
"We've been observing that in some patients that are co-infected with hepatitis C, we were treating their HIV with HAART but didn't always get very good restoration of CD4," said Marina Nunez, M.D., lead researcher and an assistant professor of infectious diseases. "Some studies suggested it was because of the hepatitis C. This study says it's not the presence of active hepatitis C replication."
Thus, said Nunez, genetic factors involved in the immune system regulation, confounding factors associated with HCV acquisition, or other unknown factors might explain the blunted immune restoration observed in some co-infected patients. "Research efforts should pursue the role of those other factors in the immune restoration," she said.
"From a clinical standpoint, although these findings will not alter the clinical management of HIV-HCV-co-infected patients, they make clear that
|Contact: Jessica Guenzel|
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center