WASHINGTON, July 23 (Xinhua) -- An antiretroviral therapy for HIV can also treat hepatitis C virus (HCV) in patients co-infected with HIV and hepatitis C, a small study said Wednesday.
Researchers from University of Cincinnati and elsewhere studied the two-year experiences of 17 co-infected patients as previous research showed that HIV antiretroviral therapy might injure the liver to the detriment of patient health.
These patients received already approved HIV antiretroviral drug therapies, but underwent frequent evaluation and sampling of blood so that minor changes in the virus and the immune response could be captured, they reported in the U.S. journal Science Translational Medicine.
The researchers did observe an initial increase in a marker of liver injury called serum alanine aminotransferase, hepatitis C or both in a subset of patients during the first 16 weeks.
However, over a period of 18 months, they found that viral loads for HCV declined to levels comparable to those seen in a patient infected with only HCV and not HIV.
The findings showed that initial liver injury actually resulted from effective HIV treatment and not from toxicity, said the researchers.
"The drop in HCV viral levels was a big surprise and not what we necessarily expected," lead author Kenneth Sherman, professor of the University of Cincinnati, said in a statement.
In the United States, 200,000 to 300,000 people have HCV and HIV co-infection, while worldwide estimates range from 4 million to 8 million people, according to the researchers.
"The findings suggest that HIV suppression with antiretroviral medications play an important role in the management of individuals with HCV and HIV infection," Sherman said. "It supports the concept that in those with HCV/HIV infection early and uninterrupted HIV therapy is a critical part of preventing liver disease."