Hepatitis C Doesn't Cause Mental Impairment in HIV Patients

Long-term infections with other pathogens have been suspected as the cause of mental impairment in patients with HIV. However, new research suggests that this might not be the case.

Long-term infections with other pathogens have been suspected as the cause of mental impairment in patients with HIV. However, new research conducted by scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that this might not be the case.

The study, which was published in the December 10, 2014, edition of Neurology, specifically showed that hepatitis C virus (HCV) is not responsible for impaired thinking, memory loss, and mood swings in HIV-positive patients.

"Hepatitis C infection has serious long-term side effects, such as damage to the liver, but our research indicates that it does not affect the brain," said lead study author David Clifford, MD, in a press release. "If a hepatitis C infection gets to the point where it damages liver function, the resulting inflammation might well contribute to mental impairment. Beyond that, though, it doesn't seem to be an active collaborator in the harm HIV does to the brain."

As a part of the CNS HIV Anti-retroviral Therapy Effects (CHARTER) study, which is examining the long-term neurological effects of HIV with support from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Clifford and his team observed 1582 HIV patients, 408 of whom were co-infected with HCV.

Among the participants, scores in 7 domains of mental function did not differ by HCV status, so the researchers found no association between neurocognitive performance and HCV co-infection.