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BACKGROUND: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a major cause of morbidity in HIV infected individuals. Coinfection with HIV is associated with diminished HCV-specific immune responses and higher HCV RNA levels. AIMS: To investigate whether long-term combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) restores HCV-specific T cell responses and improves the control of HCV replication. METHODS: T cell responses were evaluated longitudinally in 80 HIV/HCV coinfected individuals by ex vivo interferon-gamma-ELISpot responses to HCV core peptides, that predominantly stimulate CD4(+) T cells. HCV RNA levels were assessed by real-time PCR in 114 individuals. RESULTS: The proportion of individuals with detectable T cell responses to HCV core peptides was 19% before starting cART, 24% in the first year on cART and increased significantly to 45% and 49% after 33 and 70 months on cART (p=0.001). HCV-specific immune responses increased in individuals with chronic (+31%) and spontaneously cleared HCV infection (+30%). Median HCV RNA levels before starting cART were 6.5 log(10) IU/ml. During long-term cART, median HCV-RNA levels slightly decreased compared to pre-cART levels (-0.3 log10 IU/ml, p=0.02). CONCLUSIONS: Successful cART is associated with increasing cellular immune responses to HCV core peptides and with a slight long-term decrease in HCV RNA levels. These findings are in line with the favourable clinical effects of cART on the natural history of hepatitis C and with the current recommendation to start cART earlier in HCV/HIV coinfected individuals.

Original publication

DOI

10.1136/gut.2009.205971

Type

Journal article

Journal

Gut

Publication Date

09/2010

Volume

59

Pages

1252 - 1258

Keywords

Adult, Anti-HIV Agents, Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active, CD4 Lymphocyte Count, Cohort Studies, Female, HIV Infections, Hepacivirus, Hepatitis C Antigens, Hepatitis C, Chronic, Humans, Immunity, Cellular, Interferon-gamma, Longitudinal Studies, Male, RNA, Viral, T-Lymphocytes, Viral Core Proteins, Viral Load