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Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2011 May;9(5):535-43. doi: 10.1586/eri.11.10.

Antiviral therapy: why does it fail in HCV-related chronic hepatitis?

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Internal Medicine and Hepatology Division, Second University of Naples, Italy.


HCV infection is a very common cause of chronic viral hepatitis. It is a worldwide health problem with approximately 170 million persons infected and areas of high endemicity in which the percentage of the population infected reaches 30%. It is a progressive disease that can lead to complications such as severe liver fibrosis and cirrhosis, ascites, esophageal varices, gastrointestinal bleeding and, in 30-50% of patients with cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma. Extrahepatic pathologies such as mixed cryoglobulinemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and membrano-proliferative glomerulonephritis have been associated with HCV infection. Effective treatment exists, and is based on IFN-α. Sustained disappearance of the virus (sustained virological response) radically changes the natural history of chronic hepatitis C, with reduced or no disease progression and complications. Interferon-based treatment has improved over the years owing to the association with ribavirin and subsequently with 'pegylation' of interferon molecules. The present standard of care results in a response rate of up to 80% in some subpopulations. Nevertheless, some patients do not respond to this therapy. Several factors predicting nonresponse to interferon therapy have been investigated since it became available. These factors include the characteristics of the virus and of the subject infected, and the therapy used. The aim of this article is to provide an overview of these factors, and insights into the newly recognized causes of nonresponse to help clinicians select the most appropriate therapy for HCV viral hepatitis.

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