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Nanomedicines in the treatment of patients with hepatitis C co-infected with HIV – focus on pegylated interferon-alpha

Authors Heinz Zoller, Wolfgang Vogel

Published 15 January 2007 Volume 2006:1(4) Pages 399—409

Heinz Zoller, Wolfgang Vogel

Department of Medicine, Clinical Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Innsbruck Medical University, Austria

Abstract: In immuno-competent individuals, the natural course of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is highly variable and 5%–30% of patients develop cirrhosis over 20 years. Co-infection with HCV and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an important prognostic factor and associated with more frequent and accelerated progression to cirrhosis. Until recently HIV/AIDS-related complications were life limiting in patients co-infected with HCV; the introduction of highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART) and the better prognosis of HIV infection has made HCV-related complications an emerging health problem in HCV/HIV coinfected individuals. Treatment of chronic HCV infection has also evolved since the introduction of interferon-alpha. Recently, introduction of pegylated interferon-alpha (peginterferon-alpha) has resulted in an increase in sustained virus clearance rates of up to 80% in selected genotypes and patient populations. The safety and efficacy of modern anti HCV treatment regimens – based on peginterferon-alpha in combination with ribavirin – was evaluated in 4 controlled trials. Sustained clearance of hepatitis C virus can be achieved in up to 35% of patients with HIV/HCV co-infection, and novel HCV treatment regimens based on peginterferon-alpha have no negative effect on the control of HIV disease. In conclusion, if HIV infection is well controlled and CD4+ cell counts >100/mm3, treatment of chronic hepatitis C with peginterferon in combination with ribavirin is safe and should be given for 48 weeks regardless of the HCV genotype. Introduction of peginterferon-alpha has significantly improved adherence to treatment and treatment efficacy; in particular sustained virologic response in patients with HCV genotype 1 or 4 infection improved, but sustained viral clearance in only 7%–38% of patients infected with genotype 1 and 4 cannot be the final step in development of effective treatments in patients with HCV/HIV co-infection.

Keywords: pegylated interferon-alpha, HIV, hepatitis C, ribavirin