Department of Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, Kanpur, India.
Considerable progress has been made towards understanding hepatitis C virus, its pathogenesis and the effect of the drug therapy on the viral load, yet around 50% of patients do not achieve the sustained virological response (SVR) by the standard treatment. Although several personalized factors such as patients' age and weight may be important, by mathematical modeling we show that the time of the start of the therapy is a significant factor in determining the outcome. Toward this end, we first performed sensitivity analysis on the standard virus dynamics model. The analysis revealed four phases when the sensitivity of the infection to drug treatment differs. Further, we added a perturbation term in the model to simulate the drug treatment period and predict the outcome when the therapy is carried out during each of the four phases. The study shows that while the infection may be difficult to treat in the late phases, the therapy is likely to result in SVR if it is carried out in the first or second phase. Thus, development of newer and more sensitive screening methods is needed for the early detection of the infection. Moreover, the analysis predicts that the drug that blocks new infections is more effective than the drug that blocks the virus production.