Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel Theoretical Biology and Biophysics, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, USA Services de Gastroentérologie et d'Hépatologie et de Pathologie Clinique, Hôpital Cantonal Universitaire, Geneva, Switzerland Department of Infectious Diseases, Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden Service of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University Hospital and University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Summary. Hepatitis C viral (HCV) kinetics after initiation of interferon-based therapy provide valuable insights for understanding virus pathogenesis, evaluating treatment antiviral effectiveness and predicting treatment outcome. Adverse effects of liver fibrosis and steatosis on sustained virological response have been frequently reported, yet their impacts on the early viral kinetics remain unclear. In this study, associations between histology status and early viral kinetics were assessed in 149 HCV genotype 1-infected patients treated with pegylated interferon alfa-2a and ribavirin (DITTO trial). In multivariate analyses adjusted for critical factors such as IL28B genotype and baseline viral load, presence of significant fibrosis (Ishak stage > 2) was found to independently reduce the odds of achieving an initial reduction (calculated from day 0 to day 4) in HCV RNA of ≥2 logIU/mL (adjusted OR 0.03, P = 0.004) but was not associated with the second-phase slope of viral decline (calculated from day 8 to day 29). On the contrary, presence of liver steatosis was an independent risk factor for not having a rapid second-phase slope, that is, ≥0.3 logIU/mL/week (adjusted OR 0.22, P = 0.012) but was not associated with the first-phase decline. Viral kinetic modelling theory suggests that significant fibrosis primarily impairs the treatment antiviral effectiveness in blocking viral production by infected cells, whereas the presence of steatosis is associated with a lower net loss of infected cells. Further studies will be necessary to identify the biological mechanisms underlain by these findings.