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Pharmacogenetics of hepatitis C: transition from interferon-based therapies to direct-acting antiviral agents

Authors Kamal SM

Received 8 January 2014

Accepted for publication 3 April 2014

Published 24 June 2014 Volume 2014:6 Pages 61—77

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/HMER.S41127

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3


Sanaa M Kamal1,2

1Department of Medicine, Division of Hepatology, Gastroenterology and Tropical Medicine, Ain Shams Faculty of Medicine, Cairo, Egypt, 2Department of Medicine, Salman Bin Abdul Aziz College of Medicine, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Abstract: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) has emerged as a major viral pandemic over the past two decades, infecting 170 million individuals, which equates to approximately 3% of the world's population. The prevalence of HCV varies according to geographic region, being highest in developing countries such as Egypt. HCV has a high tendency to induce chronic progressive liver damage in the form of hepatic fibrosis, cirrhosis, or liver cancer. To date, there is no vaccine against HCV infection. Combination therapy comprising PEGylated interferon-alpha and ribavirin has been the standard of care for patients with chronic hepatitis C for more than a decade. However, many patients still do not respond to therapy or develop adverse events. Recently, direct antiviral agents such as protease inhibitors, polymerase inhibitors, or NS5A inhibitors have been used to augment PEGylated interferon and ribavirin, resulting in better efficacy, better tolerance, and a shorter treatment duration. However, most clinical trials have focused on assessing the efficacy and safety of direct antiviral agents in patients with genotype 1, and the response of other HCV genotypes has not been elucidated. Moreover, the prohibitive costs of such triple therapies will limit their use in patients in developing countries where most of the HCV infection exists. Understanding the host and viral factors associated with viral clearance is necessary for individualizing therapy to maximize sustained virologic response rates, prevent progression to liver disease, and increase the overall benefits of therapy with respect to its costs. Genome wide studies have shown significant associations between a set of polymorphisms in the region of the interleukin-28B (IL28B) gene and natural clearance of HCV infection or after PEGylated interferon-alpha and ribavirin treatment with and without direct antiviral agents. This paper synthesizes the recent advances in the pharmacogenetics of HCV infection in the era of triple therapies.

Keywords: hepatitis C virus, interleukin-28B polymorphisms, PEGylated interferon and ribavirin, direct-acting antiviral agents, pharmacogenetics, rational therapeutics

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