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J Viral Hepat. 2010 Jul;17(7):475-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2893.2009.01204.x.

Hyperinsulinaemia reduces the 24-h virological response to PEG-interferon therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C and insulin resistance.

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  • 1Venetian Institute of Molecular Medicine, Padova, Italy.


Insulin resistance (IR) reduces response to pegylated-interferon (PEG-IFN)/ribavirin in chronic hepatitis C (CHC), but the mechanisms are still undefined. We examined the relationship between baseline insulin levels, the main component affecting homeostasis model of assessment - insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) for assessment of IR in non-diabetic patients, and the 'acute' virological response to PEG-IFN measured 24 h after the first injection and taken as correlate of intracellular interferon signalling. In 62 patients treated with PEG-IFN/Ribavirin, serum insulin and HOMA-IR were assessed at baseline, while hepatitis C virus (HCV)-RNA was measured at baseline and 24 h, 1, 2, 4 and 12 weeks after treatment initiation. Sustained virological response was examined 24 weeks after therapy discontinuation. Mean baseline insulin was 11.52 +/- 8.51 U/L and mean HOMA-IR was 2.65 +/- 2.01 both being significantly higher with advanced liver fibrosis. Hepatitis C virus-RNA decay observed 24 h after the first injection of PEG-IFN was significantly lower (0.7 +/- 0.8 log) in patients with HOMA > or =3 compared with those with HOMA <3 (1.7 +/- 0.8, P = 0.001). A highly significant (r = -0.42) inverse correlation was observed between baseline insulin levels and the 24-h HCV-RNA decay. The difference in early viral kinetics between patients with HOMA > or =3 or <3 resulted in a significant difference in the percentage of patients achieving rapid (week 4) and sustained virological response. Multivariate analysis, inclusive of patient age, HCV genotype and fibrosis stage, identified baseline insulin levels as the main independent variable affecting the 24-h response to PEG-IFN. Hyperinsulinaemia reduces the cellular response to Pegylated-interferon in CHC with IR. Strategies to reduce insulin levels before initiation of treatment should be pursued to improve efficacy of anti-viral treatment.

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