Background: Occult hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is characterised by the presence of HCV-RNA in the liver in the absence of anti-HCV, and serum viral RNA. Up to 70% of these patients also have HCV-RNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) but it is not known if HCV is replicating in these cells.
Aim: We studied possible HCV replication in PBMC of 18 patients with an occult HCV infection who were selected on the basis of HCV-RNA positivity in PBMC.
Methods: Detection of HCV-RNA positive and negative strands in PBMC was done by strand specific reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and by in situ hybridisation.
Results: The presence of HCV-RNA positive strand in PBMC was confirmed in all patients by strand specific RT-PCR and by in situ hybridisation. Mean percentage of PBMC which had the HCV-RNA positive strand was 3.3% (95% confidence interval (CI) 2.1–4.4) The HCV-RNA negative strand was found in the PBMC of 11/18 (61%) patients by strand specific RT-PCR and confirmed by in situ hybridisation, and the percentage of PBMC harbouring the HCV-RNA negative strand was 3.1% (95% CI 0.8–5.5). There was a significant correlation (p = 0.001, r = 0.84) between the percentage of PBMC with the HCV-RNA positive strand and that of PBMC with the HCV-RNA negative strand.
Conclusion: HCV replicates in the PBMC of patients with occult HCV infection and thus, although these patients do not have serum HCV-RNA, they could be potentially infectious.
hepatitis C virus; peripheral blood mononuclear cells; fluorescent in situ hybridisation
The immune response to Schistosoma mansoni is characterized by a granulomatous reaction around the parasite eggs that are trapped in the host liver, and this reaction modulates the immune response during the chronic phase of the disease. The typical peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) response of patients during the chronic intestinal phase of infection is characterized by a decreased response to an S. mansoni soluble egg antigen. To obtain a greater understanding of Schistosoma infections, this study investigated the effects of the soluble egg antigen (SEA) and soluble adult worm antigen (SWAP) of S. mansoni on cellular proliferation, cytokine production, and ERK1/2 and Akt phosphorylation in PBMCs from infected (XTO) and egg-negative (NI) individuals living in the same endemic area.
The activation status was evaluated by cell immunophenotypic staining (cytometry). The cell proliferation assay was by CFSE method. Cytokine detection assay (Th1 and Th2) was by Cytometric Bead and Array phosphorylation status was by ELISA.
The XTO, NI and BD (blood donor) individuals from an area not endemic for schistosomiasis were compared. The CD4+ T lymphocyte proliferation rate was lower in the XTO group, but not the NI group, after SEA stimulation compared to the BD group. The CD8+ T cell proliferation rate was lower in the XTO group in the unstimulated cultures and after both SEA and SWAP stimulation compared to the BD group. Cytokine analysis after either SEA or SWAP stimulation showed a balanced cytokine pattern in the XTO and NI groups. ERK1/2 and Akt phosphorylation were only marginally detected in all groups; however, a decrease in ERK 1/2 phosphorylation was observed in the SWAP-stimulated XTO group compared to both the NI and BD groups.
The data indicate that SEA-stimulated CD4+ T cells from infected patients have a lower proliferation rate than the same cells from the NI group. Furthermore, we observed that SWAP stimulation influences ERK1/2 phosphorylation in the XTO group.
Schistosomiasis mansoni; PBMC; Th1 and Th2 cytokines; ERK1/2; Akt
Schistosoma infection is thought to lead to down-regulation of the host's immune response. This has been shown for adaptive immune responses, but the effect on innate immunity, that initiates and shapes the adaptive response, has not been extensively studied. In a first study to characterize these responses, we investigated the effect of Schistosoma haematobium infection on cytokine responses of Gabonese schoolchildren to a number of Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands.
Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were collected from S. haematobium-infected and uninfected schoolchildren from the rural area of Zilé in Gabon. PBMCs were incubated for 24 h and 72 h with various TLR ligands, as well as schistosomal egg antigen (SEA) and adult worm antigen (AWA). Pro-inflammatory TNF-α and anti-inflammatory/regulatory IL-10 cytokine concentrations were determined in culture supernatants.
Infected children produced higher adaptive IL-10 responses than uninfected children against schistosomal antigens (72 h incubation). On the other hand, infected children had higher TNF-α responses than uninfected children and significantly higher TNF-α to IL-10 ratios in response to FSL-1 and Pam3, ligands of TLR2/6 and TLR2/1 respectively. A similar trend was observed for the TLR4 ligand LPS while Poly(I:C) (Mda5/TLR3 ligand) did not induce substantial cytokine responses (24 h incubation).
This pilot study shows that Schistosoma-infected children develop a more pro-inflammatory TLR2-mediated response in the face of a more anti-inflammatory adaptive immune response. This suggests that S. haematobium infection does not suppress the host's innate immune system in the context of single TLR ligation.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been reported to replicate in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), particularly in patients coinfected with HCV and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). However, there are limited data regarding the prevalence of and the factors associated with extrahepatic replication.
The presence of negative-strand HCV RNA in PBMCs was evaluated by a strand-specific assay for 144 anti-HCV–positive/HIV-infected women enrolled in the Women’s Interagency HIV Study. One to 5 PBMC samples obtained from each woman were tested. Multivariate analyses were used to assess for associations with the clinical and demographic characteristics of the women.
Negative-strand HCV RNA was detected in 78 (25%) of 315 specimens, and, for 61 women (42%), ≥1 specimen was found to have positive results. The presence of negative-strand HCV RNA in PBMCs was significantly positively associated with an HCV RNA plasma level of ≥6.75 log copies/mL (P =.04) and consumption of ≥7 alcoholic drinks per week (P =.02). It was also negatively associated with injection drug use occurring in the past 6 months (P =.03). A negative association with a CD4+CD38+DR+ cell percentage of >10% and a positive association with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome were borderline significant (P =.05).
HCV replication in PBMCs is common among HIV-coinfected women and appears to be a dynamic process related to lifestyle, virologic, and immunologic factors.
Occult hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, defined as the presence of HCV RNA in liver and in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in the absence of detectable viral RNA in serum by standard assays, can be found in anti-HCV positive patients with normal serum levels of liver enzymes and in anti-HCV negative patients with persistently elevated liver enzymes of unknown etiology. Occult HCV infection is distributed worldwide and all HCV genotypes seem to be involved in this infection. Occult hepatitis C has been found not only in anti-HCV positive subjects with normal values of liver enzymes or in chronic hepatitis of unknown origin but also in several groups at risk for HCV infection such as hemodialysis patients or family members of patients with occult HCV. This occult infection has been reported also in healthy populations without evidence of liver disease. Occult HCV infection seems to be less aggressive than chronic hepatitis C although patients affected by occult HCV may develop liver cirrhosis and even hepatocellular carcinoma. Thus, anti-HCV negative patients with occult HCV may benefit from antiviral therapy with pegylated-interferon plus ribavirin. The persistence of very low levels of HCV RNA in serum and in PBMCs, along with the maintenance of specific T-cell responses against HCV-antigens observed during a long-term follow-up of patients with occult hepatitis C, indicate that occult HCV is a persistent infection that is not spontaneously eradicated. This is an updated report on diagnosis, epidemiology and clinical implications of occult HCV with special emphasis on anti-HCV negative cases.
Occult hepatitis C virus; Hepatitis C virus RNA; Liver; Peripheral blood mononuclear cells; T-cell response
The cellular tropism of hepatitis C virus (HCV) was studied in vivo in samples from patients with persistent HCV infection. Plasma, liver, peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC), and bone marrow cell (BMC) samples from 15 subjects positive for anti-HCV antibodies were tested for the presence of HCV RNA sequences by reverse transcription PCR. Virus-specific RNA sequences were found to be present in liver samples from all subjects (100%), in plasma samples from 13 of 15 patients (86.7%), in PBMC samples from 3 patients (20%), and in BMC samples from 9 (60%) of the 15 anti-HCV-positive patients enrolled in this study. The presence of the molecular intermediate of HCV replication (the negative-stranded HCV RNA) was evident in the two of the three PBMC and in five of the nine BMC HCV RNA-positive samples. Finally, we studied the nucleotide sequence of a large portion (-270 to -59) of the 5'untranslated region of HCV amplified from plasma samples of 12 of the 15 patients with and without HCV in BMCs; the degree of heterogeneity compared with the prototype HCV sequence was similar in both groups. The data principally indicate that HCV infection of PBMCs and BMCs is frequent in persistently infected patients, as shown by the occurrence of positive- and negative-stranded HCV RNA, thus suggesting the possibility of extrahepatic replication of HCV.
Multiple immune evasion strategies by which HCV establishes chronic infection have been proposed, including manipulation of cytokine responses. Prior infection with HIV increases the likelihood of chronic HCV infection and accelerates development of HCV-related morbidity. Therefore, we investigated in vitro cytokine responses to HCV structural and non-structural proteins in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from uninfected, HIV-infected, HCV-infected and HIV/HCV-coinfected individuals.
Intracellular flow cytometry was used to assess IL-2, IL-10, IL-12, and IFN-γ production by freshly isolated PBMC incubated for 16 hours with recombinant HCV core, non-structural protein 3 (NS3), and NS4 proteins. Anti-HCV cellular responses were assessed in HIV/HCV-coinfected individuals by 3H-thymidine proliferation assay. Exposure to HCV antigens increased IL-10 production by PBMC, especially in uninfected and HIV-monoinfected individuals. This IL-10 response was attenuated in chronic HCV infection even with HCV/HIV-coinfection. The cells producing IL-10 in response to HCV proteins in vitro matched a PBMC subset recently shown to constitutively produce IL-10 in vivo. This subset was found at similar frequencies in uninfected, HIV-infected, HCV-infected and HIV/HCV-coinfected individuals before exposure to HCV proteins. HCV-specific T cell proliferation was detectable in only one HIV/HCV-coinfected individual who demonstrated no HCV-induced IL-10 response.
This pattern suggests that selective induction of IL-10 in uninfected individuals and especially in HIV-monoinfected individuals plays a role in establishing chronic HCV infection and conversely, that attenuation of this response, once chronic infection is established, favours development of hepatic immunopathology.
A commercial indirect hemagglutination (IHA) test using erythrocytes coated with Schistosoma mansoni adult worm antigens (WA) and an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) with S. mansoni egg antigens (SEA) were assessed for their use in serodiagnosis of imported schistosomiasis (hereafter these tests are designated WA/IHA and SEA/ELISA, respectively). The sensitivity of the tests was evaluated with sera from 75 patients with proven S. mansoni infection, 25 with proven S. haematobium infection, and 10 with clinical Katayama fever. The specificity was assessed with sera from 283 patients with various parasitic, bacterial, viral, and fungal infections and sera containing autoimmune antibodies. Sensitivities of the WA/IHA with a cutoff titer of 1:160 (WA/IHA160) in detecting S. mansoni, S. haematobium, S. mansoni and S. haematobium combined, and clinical Katayama fever were 88.0, 80.0, 86.0, and 70.0%, respectively, with a specificity of 98.9%. The WA/IHA with a cutoff of 1:80 (WA/IHA80) showed sensitivities of 94.7, 92.0, 94.0, and 90.0%, respectively, with a specificity of 94.7%. The comparable values of SEA/ELISA were 93.3, 92.0, 93.0, and 50.0%, respectively, with a specificity of 98.2%. Combined use of ELISA and WA/IHA80 gave sensitivities of 100% for S. mansoni, S. haematobium, and S. mansoni and S. haematobium combined and 90% for Katayama fever. The specificity of this combination in detecting schistosomiasis was 92.9%. Combination of SEA/ELISA with WA/IHA160 gave sensitivities of 98.7, 96.0, 98.0, and 80% with a specificity of 97.2%. Our findings suggest that WA/IHA and SEA/ELISA are each sensitive and specific serological tests that are easy to use for the diagnosis of imported schistosomiasis. The combined use of these two tests enabled the serological diagnosis of schistosomiasis to be achieved with very high degrees of both sensitivity and specificity.
As is widely recognized, CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) play a crucial role in hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, both in pathogenesis of liver injury and in clearing the virus. CTL studies with HCV-infected patients have been difficult because of the relatively low frequency of CTL precursors in the peripheral blood and because the targeted epitopes vary depending on the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) types of the individuals. This study attempts to overcome these problems by assessing the feasibility of using autologous peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) expressing viral antigens as stimulators or targets in order to monitor the CTL responses. Primary PBMCs were transduced using a retroviral vector pseudotyped with a vesicular stomatitis virus G glycoprotein expressing the HCV core gene. Additionally, the vector-transduced PBMCs were used as targets of CTL assays to measure the HCV core-specific CTL activities from the liver-infiltrating lymphocytes of six different HLA-type patients with chronic HCV infection. The core-expressing PBMCs also served as stimulators, allowing us to measure core-specific CD8+ T-cell responses by intracellular gamma interferon staining of the peripheral blood of hepatitis C patients who had received treatment with alpha interferon plus ribavirin. This approach provides an efficient means of measuring antigen-specific CTL responses without HLA constraints.
AIM: To analyze hepatitis C virus (HCV)-specific immune responses in chronically infected patients under triple therapy with interferon-α (IFN-α) plus ribavirin and CIGB-230.
METHODS: CIGB-230 was administered in different schedules with respect to IFN-α plus ribavirin therapy. Paired serum and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) samples from baseline and end of treatment were analyzed. The HCV-specific humoral response was tested by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, neutralizing antibodies were evaluated by cell culture HCV neutralization assays, PBMC proliferation was assayed by carboxyfluorescein succinimidyl ester staining and IFN-γ secretion was assessed by enzyme-linked immunospot. Data on virological and histological response and their association with immune variables are also provided.
RESULTS: From week 12 to week 48, all groups of patients showed a significant reduction in mean leukocyte counts. Statistically significant reductions in antibody titers were frequent, but only individuals immunized with CIGB-230 as early add-on treatment sustained the core-IgG response, and the neutralizing antibody response was enhanced only in patients receiving CIGB-230. Cell-mediated immune responses also tended to decline, but significant reductions in IFN-γ secretion and total absence of core-specific lymphoproliferation were exclusive of the control group. Only CIGB-230-immunized individuals showed de novo induced lymphoproliferative responses against the structural antigens. Importantly, it was demonstrated that the quality of the CIGB-230-induced immune response depended on the number of doses and timing of administration in relation to the antiviral therapy. Specifically, the administration of 6 doses of CIGB-230 as late add-on to therapy increased the neutralizing antibody activity and the de novo core-specific IFN-γ secretion, both of which were associated with the sustained virological response.
CONCLUSION: CIGB-230, combined with IFN-α-based therapy, modifies the immune response in chronic patients. The study provides evidence for the design of more effective therapeutic vaccine interventions against HCV.
Clinical trial; DNA vaccine; Enzyme-linked immunospot; Hepatitis C virus; Leukopenia
Aims: To find out whether serology can reliably speciate human schistosomiasis using a simple enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) technique.
Methods: Stored sera from 66 patients with microscopically confirmed schistosomiasis were subjected to ELISA using a panel of three antigens, namely: unfractionated Schistosoma mansoni soluble egg antigen (SEA); CEF6, a cationic fraction of SEA; and crude S margrebowiei egg antigen, prepared from an animal schistosome closely related to S haematobium.
Results: The optical densities (ODs) obtained using CEF6 as antigen were significantly higher in sera from S mansoni infected patients than in sera from S haematobium infected patients (median OD, 0.810 v 0.595). Using S margrebowiei egg antigen, the optical densities were significantly higher in S haematobium sera than in S mansoni sera (median OD, 0.794 v 0.544). There was no significant difference in optical densities between S mansoni and S haematobium sera using SEA (median OD, 0.725 v 0.737). The ratio of ODs (CEF6 to S margrebowiei egg antigen) was calculated: a ratio of >1 indicated S mansoni infection (sensitivity, 88%) and a ratio of <1 indicated S haematobium infection (sensitivity, 84%). The odds ratio for S haematobium having an OD ratio of <1 was 36.8 (95% confidence interval, 7.0 to 194).
Conclusions: The identity of the infecting species of schistosome can be determined using the panel of antigens described. SEA should be used to screen serum samples, and the CEF6 : S margrebowiei egg antigen ELISA optical density ratio can be used where serological speciation is required.
schistosomiasis; serodiagnosis; enzyme linked immunosorbent assay
Hepatitis C virus (HCV), a positive-strand RNA virus, is the major infectious agent responsible for causing chronic hepatitis. Currently, there is no vaccine for HCV infection, and the only therapy for chronic hepatitis C is largely ineffective. To investigate new genetic approaches to the management of HCV infection, six hammerhead ribozymes directed against a conserved region of the plus strand and minus strand of the HCV genome were isolated from a ribozyme library, characterized, and expressed from recombinant adenovirus vectors. The expressed ribozymes individually or in combination were efficient at reducing or eliminating the respective plus- or minus-strand HCV RNAs expressed in cultured cells and from primary human hepatocytes obtained from chronic HCV-infected patients. This study demonstrates the potential utility of ribozyme therapy as a strategy for the treatment of hepatitis C virus infection.
The present studies assessed the level of tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) subsets from patients with chronic HCV undergoing interferon α/ribavirin-based therapy (Ifn/R). Methods. TNFR family member mRNA expression was determined using quantitative real-time PCR assays (RTPCRs) in PBMC from 39 HCV+ patients and 21 control HCV− patients. Further subset analysis of HCV + patients (untreated (U), sustained virological responders (SVR), and nonresponders (NR)/relapsers (Rel)) PBMC was performed via staining with anti-CD123, anti-CD33, anti-TNFR1 or via RTPCR for TNFR1 mRNA. Results. A similar level of TNFR1 mRNA in PBMC from untreated HCV+ genotype 1 patients and controls was noted. TNFR1 and TNFR2 mRNA levels in PBMC from HCV+ patients with SVR were statistically different than levels in HCV(−) patients. A significant difference was noted between the peak values of TNFR1 of the CD123+ PBMC isolated from SVR and the NR/Rel. Conclusion. Upregulation of TNFR1 expression, occurring in a specific subset of CD123+ dendritic cells, appeared in HCV+ patients with SVR.
Because of the use of viral kinetics during polyethylene glycol (PEG)-interferon-ribavirin therapy and the development of specific new anti-hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV) drugs, assessment of the efficacy of anti-HCV drugs needs to be based not on end-point PCR assays but on real-time PCR. The aim of this study was to determine if the two available commercial real-time PCR assays, the Abbott RealTime HCV assay and the Roche Cobas TaqMan HCV assay, can become the standard for HCV RNA quantification. We investigated the prognostic relevance of HCV RNA viral loads at baseline, week 4, and week 12 to a rapid and early virological response to antiviral therapy by using the two assays. Of 59 naïve patients chronically infected by HCV (41 infected with genotype 1) who were treated with ribavirin plus PEG-interferon alfa-2b for 48 weeks, 24 patients (41%) showed a sustained virological response (SVR). With the two assays, viral loads were highly correlated, irrespective of genotype (R2 = 0.94 for all cases). No difference in diagnostic value was found between the Abbott and Roche assays at week 4, with respective negative predictive values (NPVs) of 84% and 78% and positive predictive values (PPVs) of 62% and 56% (not significant), and at week 12, the respective NPVs were 91% and 90% and PPVs were 44% and 46% (not significant). At week 12, 83% (20/24) and 96% (23/24) of patients with SVR tested negative for HCV RNA by the Abbott and Roche assays, respectively (the difference is not significant). In conclusion, the high sensitivities and large dynamic ranges of the Abbott and Roche assays show that a single real-time quantitative PCR assay is fully adequate for clinical and therapeutic management of HCV.
Tight correlation between host circulating CD8+ T cell-mediated immune response and control of viral replication is classical characteristic of long-term HCV infection. CD8+ T cell maturation/activation markers are expected to be associated with viral replication and disease progression in chronic HCV infection. The aim of the present study was to explore novel markers on CD8+ T cells with ability to evaluate HCV viral replication and disease progression.
PBMCs were isolated from 37 chronic HCV-infected patients and 17 healthy controls. Distributed pattern of CD8+ T cells subsets and expression of PD-1, CD38, HLA-DR and CD127 were analyzed by flow cytometry. The correlation between expression of surface markers and HCV viral load or ALT was studied.
Declined naïve and increased TEMRA CD8+ T subsets were found in HCV-infected individuals compared with healthy controls. Percentage and MFI of PD-1, CD38 and HLA-DR on all CD8+ T cell subsets were higher in HCV-infected patients than healthy controls. In contrast, CD127 expression on CD8+ TCM showed an opposite trend as PD-1, CD38 and HLA-DR did. In chronic HCV infection, MFI of PD-1 on CD8+ TEM (p < 0.0001) and TEMRA (p = 0.0015) was positively correlated with HCV viral load while HLA-DR expression on non-naive CD8+ T cell subsets (p < 0.05) was negatively correlated with HCV viral load.
PD-1 level on peripheral CD8+ TEM/TEMRA was highly correlated with HCV viral load in chronic HCV-infected patients, which made PD-1 a novel indicator to evaluate HCV replication and disease progression in chronic hepatitis C patients.
A recently discovered occult HCV entity reported by various investigators seems to be highly controversial. Especially, the clinical significance of these findings remains uncertain. For optimal outcome of antiviral therapy, investigation of occult HCV needs a broad-based probe in order to investigate the results of viral therapy and its host/viral interaction. The current study was aimed at determining the prevalence of occult HCV in peripheral blood lymphocytes of predominantly genotype 3 HCV-infected patients after completion of antiviral therapy and to investigate long term outcomes in the presence or absence of PBMC positivity.
A total of 151 chronic, antiHCV and serum RNA-positive patients were enrolled in the study. Patients with a complete virological response at the end of treatment were screened for the presence of viral RNA in their PBMCs and were followed for up to one year for the presence of serum and PBMC viral genomic RNA.
Out of 151 patients, 104 (70%) responded to the prescribed interferon treatment and showed viral-clearance from serum. These were screened for the presence of genomic RNA in their PBMCs. Sixteen samples were PBMC-positive for viral RNA at the end of treatment (EOT). All these patients had also cleared the virus from peripheral blood cells after the 6-12 month follow-up study.
True occult hepatitis C virus does not exist in our cohort. Residual viremia at the EOT stage merely reflects a difference in viral kinetics in various compartments that remains a target of immune response even after the end of antiviral therapy and is eventually cleared out at the sustained viral response (SVR).
Recent studies suggest that HCV infection is associated with progressive declines in pulmonary function in patients with underlying pulmonary diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Few molecular studies have addressed the inflammatory aspects of HCV-associated pulmonary disease. Because IL-8 plays a fundamental role in reactive airway diseases, we examined IL-8 signaling in normal human lung fibroblasts (NHLF) in response to the HCV nucleocapsid core protein, a viral antigen shown to modulate intracellular signaling pathways involved in cell proliferation, apoptosis and inflammation.
NHLF were treated with HCV core protein and assayed for IL-8 expression, phosphorylation of the p38 MAPK pathway, and for the effect of p38 inhibition.
Our studies demonstrate that soluble HCV core protein induces significant increases in both IL-8 mRNA and protein expression in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Treatment with HCV core led to phosphorylation of p38 MAPK, and expression of IL-8 was dependent upon p38 activation. Using TNFα as a co-stimulant, we observed additive increases in IL-8 expression. HCV core-mediated expression of IL-8 was inhibited by blocking gC1qR, a known receptor for soluble HCV core linked to MAPK signaling.
These studies suggest that HCV core protein can lead to enhanced p38- and gC1qR-dependent IL-8 expression. Such a pro-inflammatory role may contribute to the progressive deterioration in pulmonary function recently recognized in individuals chronically infected with HCV.
Insulin resistance (IR) is induced by chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotypes 1 and 4 infections. It is not known whether drugs that affect IR such as Pioglitazone and Prednisone also affect serum HCV RNA titers independently of PEG-Interferon-α2/ribavirin treatment. The primary aim was to assess whether Pioglitazone by improving IR and/or inflammation decreases HCV viral load independently of standard of care HCV treatment. A secondary aim was to assess whether Prednisone, a drug that induces insulin resistance and stimulates HCV viral entry and replication in replicon culture systems, increases HCV viral load in this population.
We designed a two-arm, parallel Pilot Study of overweight, treatment naïve genotype 4 HCV-infected patients at a public referral Liver Clinic in Giza, Egypt. The subjects received Pioglitazone (30 mg/day for 14 days) or Prednisone (40 mg/day for 4 days) in a randomized fashion, but the two arms can be considered independent pilot studies. Only changes from baseline within each arm were assessed and no contrasts of the interventions were made, as this was not an aim of the study. Among 105 consecutive HCV genotype 4 patients, 39 were enrolled based on the optimal sample size and power analysis according to the CONSORT statement; 20 to the Pioglitazone group and 19 to the Prednisone group. Pioglitazone was effective in decreasing serum HCV RNA at day-14 (n = 10; difference of means = 205,618 IU/ml; 95% CI 26,600 to 384,600; P<0.001). Although Prednisone did increase serum HCV RNA at day-4 (n = 10; change from baseline = −42,786 IU/ml; 95% CI −85,500 to −15,700; P = 0.049), the log10 HCV RNA titers were statistically not different from baseline day-0.
This is the first documentation that Pioglitazone decreases the serum HCV RNA titers independently of PEG-Interferon-α2/ribavirin treatment. The novel findings of our Study provide the foundation for basic and clinical investigations on the molecular mechanisms responsible for the Pioglitazone-induced decrease in HCV genotype 4 RNA titers.
Glycyrrhizin (GL) has been used in Japan to treat patients with chronic viral hepatitis, as an anti-inflammatory drug to reduce serum alanine aminotransferase levels. GL is also known to exhibit various biological activities, including anti-viral effects, but the anti-hepatitis C virus (HCV) effect of GL remains to be clarified. In this study, we demonstrated that GL treatment of HCV-infected Huh7 cells caused a reduction of infectious HCV production using cell culture-produced HCV (HCVcc). To determine the target step in the HCV lifecycle of GL, we used HCV pseudoparticles (HCVpp), replicon, and HCVcc systems. Significant suppressions of viral entry and replication steps were not observed. Interestingly, extracellular infectivity was decreased, and intracellular infectivity was increased. By immunofluorescence and electron microscopic analysis of GL treated cells, HCV core antigens and electron-dense particles had accumulated on endoplasmic reticulum attached to lipid droplet (LD), respectively, which is thought to act as platforms for HCV assembly. Furthermore, the amount of HCV core antigen in LD fraction increased. Taken together, these results suggest that GL inhibits release of infectious HCV particles. GL is known to have an inhibitory effect on phospholipase A2 (PLA2). We found that group 1B PLA2 (PLA2G1B) inhibitor also decreased HCV release, suggesting that suppression of virus release by GL treatment may be due to its inhibitory effect on PLA2G1B. Finally, we demonstrated that combination treatment with GL augmented IFN-induced reduction of virus in the HCVcc system. GL is identified as a novel anti-HCV agent that targets infectious virus particle release.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a global health care problem. Diagnosis of HCV infection is mainly based on the detection of anti-HCV antibodies as a screening test with serum samples. Recombinant immunoblot assays are used as supplemental tests and for the final detection and quantification of HCV RNA in confirmatory tests. In this study, we aimed to compare the HCV core antigen test with the HCV RNA assay for confirming anti-HCV results to determine whether the HCV core antigen test may be used as an alternative confirmatory test to the HCV RNA test and to assess the diagnostic values of the total HCV core antigen test by determining the diagnostic specificity and sensitivity rates compared with the HCV RNA test. Sera from a total of 212 treatment-naive patients were analyzed for anti-HCV and HCV core antigen both with the Abbott Architect test and with the molecular HCV RNA assay consisting of a reverse transcription-PCR method as a confirmatory test. The diagnostic sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values of the HCV core antigen assay compared to the HCV RNA test were 96.3%, 100%, 100%, and 89.7%, respectively. The levels of HCV core antigen showed a good correlation with those from the HCV RNA quantification (r = 0.907). In conclusion, the Architect HCV antigen assay is highly specific, sensitive, reliable, easy to perform, reproducible, cost-effective, and applicable as a screening, supplemental, and preconfirmatory test for anti-HCV assays used in laboratory procedures for the diagnosis of hepatitis C virus infection.
The induction of an efficient CD4+ T-cell response against hepatitis C virus (HCV) is critical for control of the chronicity of HCV infection. The ability of HCV structural protein endogenously expressed in an antigen-presenting cell (APC) to be presented by class II major histocompatibility complex molecules to CD4+ T cells was investigated by in vitro culture analyses using HCV core-specific T-cell lines and autologous Epstein-Barr virus-transformed B-lymphoblastoid cell lines (B-LCLs) expressing structural HCV antigens. The T- and B-cell lines were generated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells derived from HCV-infected patients. Expression and intracellular localization of core protein in transfected cells were determined by immunoblotting and immunofluorescence. By stimulation with autologous B-LCLs expressing viral antigens, strong T-cell proliferative responses were induced in two of three patients, while no substantial stimulatory effects were produced by B-LCLs expressing a control protein (chloramphenicol acetyltransferase) or by B-LCLs alone. The results showed that transfected B cells presented mainly endogenously synthesized core peptides. Presentation of secreted antigens from adjacent antigen-expressing cells was not enough to stimulate a core-specific T-cell response. Only weak T-cell proliferative responses were generated by stimulation with B-LCLs that had been pulsed beforehand with at least a 10-fold-higher amount of transfected COS cells in the form of cell lysate, suggesting that presentation of antigens released from dead cells in the B-LCL cultures had a minimal role. Titrating numbers of APCs, we showed that as few as 104 transfected B-LCL APCs were sufficient to stimulate T cells. This presentation pathway was found to be leupeptin sensitive, and it can be blocked by antibody to HLA class II (DR). In addition, expression of a costimulatory signal by B7/BB1 on B cells was essential for T-cell activation.
We examined hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA levels in serum, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), and the liver for 135 patients with chronic HCV infections, 44 of whom were human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive and treated with highly active antiretroviral therapy (group A), 66 of whom were HIV negative (group B), with abnormal serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) values, and 25 of whom were HIV negative, with ALT values of ≤1.5 times the normal value (group C). Patients had not been treated with interferon, with or without ribavirin, at the time of the study. A statistically significant correlation between HCV RNA levels in the liver and serum was reproducibly documented, whereas this was inconsistent for serum and PBMC. A comparative evaluation of HCV RNA levels in the liver and PBMC showed significantly lower values for group A than for groups B and C (P < 0.01 and P < 0.0001, respectively). In contrast, HCV RNA levels in serum were significantly higher for group A than for group B (P < 0.001). A dissociation between HCV RNA levels in serum and the liver was found for patients with HIV-HCV coinfections. Although the relative contribution of extrahepatic reservoirs, including lymphoid cells, to HCV RNA levels in serum is unclear, it may be speculated that a low intrahepatic HCV burden is caused by restored immunocompetence after successful antiretroviral therapy in coinfected patients.
The presence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) negative strand RNA in extrahepatic compartments based on PCR detection assays has been suggested in many reports with a very heterologous detection rate (from 0 to 100%). In this study, we have analyzed the presence of HCV negative strand in hepatic (liver biopsies, n = 20) and extrahepatic (sera, n = 32; PBMC, n = 26 and fresh bone marrow cells, n = 8) compartments from infected patients with three different reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR-based assays using primers located in the 5' noncoding region, with or without a tag selected to display different viral loads (10(5)-3 x 10(7) genomic equivalent/ml or gram) and viral genotypes (n = 5). Using synthetic as well as biological templates, we could document extensive artifactual detection of negative strand RNA, due to self priming and mispriming events, even either 5' noncoding region primer pair was used, whereas both artifacts were dramatically reduced (mispriming) or eliminated (selfpriming) using CAP-based RT-PCR assay. Mispriming artifacts were directly correlated to the titer of positive strand RNA present in the sample. Using the CAP-PCR assay, the presence of HCV negative strand RNA was found in 75% of livers (16:20) and only 8% of PBMC, independent of the genotype involved, but could not be documented in sera (0:32) and fresh bone marrow cells (0:6). These findings suggest that caution regarding the type of RT-PCR assay used and the level of HCV positive strand RNA present in the biological sample analyzed has to be taken to avoid false identification of viral reservoirs. The findings suggest that hematopoietic peripheral cells can support HCV replication, although in a very limited number of carriers.
BACKGROUND/AIM: A novel fluorescent enzyme immunoassay (FEIA) for the detection and quantification of serum hepatitis C virus (HCV) core protein was developed. The aim of this study was to evaluate the relation among serum HCV core protein level, HCV RNA level, and HCV genotype in patients with chronic HCV infection. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Serum HCV core protein, HCV RNA, HCV genotype were determined in 175 patients using the FEIA, branched DNA assay (Quantiplex HCV RNA ver 1.0), and serologically defined genotyping assay, respectively. For the specificity, all 13 patients seronegative for anti-HCV were negative for serum core antigen and HCV RNA by FEIA and bDNA, respectively. RESULTS: FEIA assay seems to be more sensitive than bDNA for patients with HCV type 2 infection (detection: 83.4% v 63.4%, p < 0.01). There was a good overall correlation between the FEIA and bDNA results. However, when the patients were stratified into their HCV types, a correlation was observed in HCV type 1 but not in type 2 infection. Patients with HCV type 2 infection had a lower serum HCV core protein level (median 56 RFI) compared with type 1 infection (median 149 RFI, p < 0.01). Thirty seven patients subsequently received interferon alpha therapy, patients who showed a complete and sustained response had a lower pretreatment serum HCV core protein level compared with patients who had a relapse and nonresponders (36 v 338 RFI, p < 0.01). CONCLUSIONS: This study showed that FEIA (1) is a good assay for the detection and quantification of serum HCV core protein level, (2) is also very sensitive in detecting HCV core protein in patients with HCV type 2 infection, and (3) may have a role as a predictor of subsequent response to interferon therapy.
The objective of the present study was to test the hypothesis that treatment of schistosomiasis mansoni with praziquantel can alter significantly the immune response of patients and generate a reversal of the level of fibrosis. Peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) samples were collected from, and abdominal ultrasound examinations conducted on, volunteers infected with Schistosoma mansoni and living in an area where the disease is endemic, both prior to and one year after treatment with praziquantel. Subjects were classified into groups according to the level of pathology (i.e., absent, incipient, moderate, or severe fibrosis). PBMCs were stimulated with schistosome soluble egg antigens (SEA), and the levels of production of the cytokines gamma interferon (IFN-γ), tumor necrosis factor alpha, transforming growth factor β, and interleukin-4 (IL-4), IL-10, and IL-13 were determined. The chemotherapy was effective in reducing morbidity, particularly for individuals presenting with severe fibrosis. When levels of cytokine production in posttreatment PBMC cultures stimulated by SEA were categorized as low or high, significant differences in the distribution of IL-13 levels between groups presenting with or not presenting with fibrosis were established. Comparison of pre- and posttreatment SEA-induced cytokine levels in individuals who had experienced no change in the grade of fibrosis following chemotherapy revealed that the level of IFN-γ decreased in subjects with fibrosis whereas that of IL-10 decreased in individuals with and without fibrosis. The data suggest that chemotherapy is effective in reducing the morbidity of the disease and that the level of IL-13 may be a useful indicator of the persistence of fibrosis following treatment.