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Antiretroviral Drug Therapy can Treat Hepatitis C and HIV

Update Date: Jul 23, 2014 02:08 PM EDT

For patients diagnosed with both the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the hepatitis C virus (HCV), antiretroviral drug therapies were effective in treating both infections, a new study reported.

For this study, the team headed by Kenneth Sherman, MD, PhD, Gould Professor of Medicine and Director in the UC Division of Digestive Diseases in the College of Medicine followed 17 patients with HIV and HCV for two years. The patients were being treated with approved HIV antiretroviral drug therapies. The team carried out frequent physical evaluations and collected blood samples to look for any changes in the virus. The researchers were aware of the link between antiretroviral therapies and liver damage in co-infected patients.

The researchers found that in a subset group of patients, there was a spike in their serum ALT, which is a marker of liver injury, or in their hepatitis C levels or both for the first 16 weeks of treatment. After week 18, the team discovered that the patients' viral loads for HCV had returned to levels that were expected in an infected patient with HCV but not HIV.

"The drop in HCV viral levels was a big surprise and not what we necessarily expected," Sherman stated in the press release. "There is a complex interaction of biological effects when patients are infected with both HIV and the hepatitis C virus. Initial response to HIV treatment results in a transient increase in HCV viral replication and evidence of liver injury. However, over time HIV suppression leads to reduced HCV replication."

Sherman added, "The findings suggest that HIV suppression with antiretroviral medications play an important role in the management of individuals with HCV and HIV infection. It supports the concept that in those with HCV/HIV infection early and uninterrupted HIV therapy is a critical part of preventing liver disease."

The study was published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine.

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