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J Med Virol. 2012 Feb;84(2):235-41. doi: 10.1002/jmv.22271.

Demographics, socio-behavioral factors, and drug use patterns: what matters in spontaneous HCV clearance?

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Center for Infectious Diseases, Division of Epidemiology and Disease Control, School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV), an emerging bloodborne pathogen, causes chronic liver disease frequently except in about 10-20% of infections which undergo spontaneous resolution. Investigating factors that influence viral clearance is essential to understand the natural history of this infection and establishing novel strategies for prevention and treatment. HCV clearance was estimated in a unique cohort of 1,260 HIV and HBV negative current drug users enrolled for a hepatitis B vaccination study. It was defined as the inability to detect viral RNA using a PCR method in presence of serum anti-HCV antibody EIA. Associated demographic and socio-behavioral factors including drug use patterns were identified from the enrolled subjects using multivariate regression analysis. 33.3% (420/1260) of drug users were found positive for anti-HCV antibodies and 14.8% (62/420) of these individuals achieved viral clearance (negative PCR test). Race or ethnicity of the participants was the only significant factor associated with HCV clearance. Hispanics (OR = 3.4, 95% CI: 1.3-8.5, P = 0.01) and Caucasians (OR = 3.1, 95% CI: 1.5-6.6, P = 0.003) had significantly higher odds of clearing the virus compared to African Americans when adjusted for age and gender. None of the socio-behavioral factors including alcohol intake and drug use patterns were significant determinants of HCV clearance. Racial or ethnic differences in HCV clearance were observed in this study suggesting an important role of host genetic susceptibility factors in determining the clinical course of this disease. Further research is needed to examine these genetic associations of host-virus relationships.

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