Researchers discover gene variant protects against relapse of hepatitis C


Researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg said on Thursday that they have identified a gene that shows why some patients with hepatitis C do not relapse after receiving treatment

More than 100 million people are infected with hepatitis C around the world. The infection causes chronic liver inflammation, which can cause reduced liver function, liver cirrhosis and cancer.

Anti-viral medication often eliminates the virus, but it recurs in approximately one fifth of the patients.

Researchers said the discovery of the gene, called inosine trifosfatas, might lead to more effective treatments and possibly prevent relapse of the infection.

ITPase prevents the integration of defective building blocks into RNA and DNA. The study showed that patients with the gene had a five times lower risk of experiencing a relapse of hepatitis C.

"Relapse after completed treatment is a significant problem in chronic hepatitis C, and the results may contribute to explaining why the infection recurs in many patients," Researcher Martin Lagging said. "Our hypothesis is that a low ITPase activity results in defective nucleotides being incorporated into the virus RNA, which makes the virus unstable."

Lagging said discovery of ITPase might help in developing treatments for other viral infections.

"A medication that interferes with the enzyme's activity could have a broad antiviral effect, but this must be further investigated in future studies," Lagging said.

The study was conducted with more than 300 patients in several Nordic countries.