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Antivir Ther. 2012;17(5):805-11. doi: 10.3851/IMP1993. Epub 2011 Dec 1.

Cytoplasmic rods and rings autoantibodies developed during pegylated interferon and ribavirin therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Istituto Clinico Humanitas, Milan, Italy.



Serum autoantibodies are frequently detected in patients with chronic HCV infection, reflecting the wide spectrum of immune reactions related to this virus. In the present study, a novel autoantibody to cytoplasmic rods and rings (RR) in chronic HCV patients was characterized.


Sera from 75 previously untreated HCV patients were investigated by indirect immunofluorescence using HEp-2 cell substrate before and during pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN)/ribavirin (RBV) therapy. HEp-2 cells were cultured and fixed either following standard protocols or with the addition of RBV in culture medium.


In 15 out of 75 (20%) patients, analysis revealed the presence of antibodies to rod-like cytoplasmic structures ranging approximately 3-10 μm in length and rings approximately 2-5 μm in diameter. These RR structures became detectable in >95% of cells after addition of RBV in culture medium, whereas they were absent in untreated cells. Anti-RR antibodies were found in sera collected during PEG-IFN/RBV treatment only, but never detected before antiviral therapy nor in control groups. More importantly, these anti-RR antibodies were more often detected in non-responder/relapsers than in responder patients (33% versus 11%; P-value =0.037).


An RBV-induced autoantibody was identified to a new cytoplasmic autoantigenic structure developed in HCV patients after PEG-IFN/RBV and this same structure can be induced by RBV in in vitro culture. Owing to the onset of anti-RR antibodies in PEG-IFN/RBV-treated patients and their association with a treatment failure, studies are deemed necessary to clarify whether anti-RR plays a role in the response to PEG-IFN/RBV therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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