Drug abuse, innate immunity and hepatitis C virus.

Division of Allergy and Immunology, Joseph Stokes, Jr. Research Institute at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Department of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
Reviews in Medical Virology (Impact Factor: 5.76). 09/2006; 16(5):311-27. DOI: 10.1002/rmv.508
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Since its discovery in 1989, hepatitis C virus (HCV) has become a major public health problem. HCV chronically infects an estimated 170 million people worldwide. The seroprevalence of anti-HCV antibody in the United States has been estimated at 1.8%, which corresponds to approximately 4 million people. HCV is the most common chronic blood borne infection in the United States, and the leading cause of liver transplantation in developed countries. Injection drug use is the dominant mode of HCV transmission and accounts for up to 90% of current infections. Opiates and other drug abuse, such as alcohol, have been implicated as cofactors in the pathogenesis of HCV disease. Injection drug use has been the most common risk factor identified in alcoholics with HCV infection. Both opiates and alcohol contribute significantly to morbidity and mortality from HCV disease. These drugs most likely act synergistically to promote the development and progression of HCV disease. However, there is limited information available concerning the interaction of the drug abuse with the host cell innate immunity against HCV infection, which is a major barrier to fundamental understanding of the immunopathogenesis of HCV disease. Therefore, defining the role of the drug abuse in the development of chronic HCV infection is of crucial importance and should provide practical guidance toward the reduction of risk factors that interfere with therapeutic approaches for HCV infection and disease. This review paper focuses on the interplay between drug abuse (opiates and alcohol), innate immunity and HCV in the context of the development of HCV disease.

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