A gene variation that appears to have a protective effect against hepatitis C virus (HCV) relapse has been identified by researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenberg.
The study, published online in Hepatology on January 13, 2014, examines the impact of variations on the inosine triphosphate pyrophosphatase (ITPase) gene on the outcome of 354 treatment-naïve patients with HCV genotype 2/3 infection. The patients were treated with peginterferon-2a and a daily dose of ribavirin while enrolled in the study.
A variation of the gene entailing reduced ITPase activity was associated with an increased likelihood of achieving sustained virological response and a reduced rate of HCV relapse. Researchers found that patients with the gene variation had a rate of relapse after treatment that was 5 times lower than those without the variation. Of patients in the study, 37% were observed to have the gene variation.
“These findings demonstrate a novel ribavirin-like association between polymorphisms at ITPA [inosine triphosphatase gene] and treatment efficacy in chronic hepatitis C mediated by reduced relapse risk,” the authors conclude. “We hypothesize that patients (63%) being homozygous for both major alleles, leading to normal ITPase activity, may benefit more from the addition of ribavirin to present and future treatment regimens for HCV in spite of concomitant increased risk of anemia.”