New Biomarker Found for Hepatitis C

Protein may be inhibiting treatments for Hepatitis C

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Scientists find new ways to predict the efficiency of Hepatitis C treatments by singling out a particular protein that, in its abnormal form, impedes immune response instead of helping it.

Hepatitis C is a major worldwide problem, with over 170 million infected people worldwide. It is the leading cause of liver failure and liver cancer and currently 3 to 4 million new infections are reported every year.

A recent discovery has been made on how to predict the efficiency and success of Hepatitis C treatment by reading "biomarkers," or substances that reveal biological clues to a person's health and response to treatment.

French scientists have found that the protein IP-10, before a person begins treatment, predicts how well a person with chronic infection will respond when given ribavirin (a medication) with pegylated-interferon. Interferon are immune system proteins and when boosted with certain chemicals, they are referred to as pegylated.

Since there is no vaccine to treat the disease, 80 percent of people develop chronic disease that can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure and even complications such as diabetes.

Elevated levels of the protein IP-10 in patients was found to predict poor response to treatment, a finding that is shocking due to the protein's usual role in inflammation and viral immunity. The protein IP-10 was found to be catabolized (broken down) in patients with Hepatitis C and in its short form the protein actually interfered with virus-killing T-cell response. Thus, the protein is deemed responsible for 50 percent of failed treatments of those infected.

In collaboration with an American company, the French team of scientists hope to develop a diagnostic test to discern which form of IP-10 is present in the blood, the full form or the short, "antagonist" form.

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Review Date: 
January 6, 2011
Last Updated:
January 7, 2011