The Impact of Ethnicity on Hepatitis C Virus Treatment Decisions and Outcomes

Hepatology Program, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, 63110-1010, USA, .
Digestive Diseases and Sciences (Impact Factor: 2.61). 10/2012; 58(3). DOI: 10.1007/s10620-012-2392-0
Source: PubMed


Hepatitis C virus infection is a major public health concern. Approximately 4 million people are reported to be infected with the virus in the United States, and the annual death rate due to HCV-associated decompensated liver failure or hepatocellular carcinoma is estimated to be approximately 18,000 within the next decade. Therapeutic success, as measured by a sustained virologic response, is approximately 50 % in G1 patients with pegylated-interferon/ribavirin-based therapies. Independent studies have reported significant variation in response rates depending on the ethnicity or race of the patient, though the underlying reasons are not well understood. Historically, ethnic populations have been underrepresented in most large clinical trials of HCV therapies, even though these populations have disproportionately high rates of HCV infection. Recent clinical trials have investigated genetic variations in key biological pathways that may underlie the mechanisms responsible for the different rates of HCV clearance and treatment outcomes in ethnic populations treated with pegylated-interferon/ribavirin. However, as novel direct-acting antiviral drugs are added to, and eventually replace, existing treatment regimens, the role of the innate immune response in determining treatment outcomes will diminish. Socioeconomic and biological factors can impact rates of HCV infection, disease progression, and treatment outcomes in minority populations. Improved access to health care, novel antiviral treatments, and a better understanding of the host factors that contribute to disparities in treatment outcomes are expected to result in optimized treatment paradigms that directly target the virus, leading to improved outcomes for all patients.

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