Single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the IL28B and PNPLA3 gene regions have been associated with hepatic steatosis in genotype 1 (G1) chronic HCV infection but their clinical impacts remain to be determined.
We sought to validate these associations and to explore their impact on treatment response to peginterferon and ribavirin therapy.
A total of 972 G1 HCV-infected Caucasian patients were genotyped for the SNPs rs12979860 (IL28B) and rs2896019 (PNPLA3). Multivariable analysis tested IL28B and PNPLA3 for association with the presence of any steatosis (>0 %); clinically significant steatosis (>5 %); steatosis severity (grade 0–3/4); and the interacting associations of the SNPs and hepatic steatosis to sustained viral response (SVR).
IL28B and PNPLA3 polymorphisms were associated with the presence of any steatosis (rs12979860, p = 1.87 × 10−7; rs2896019, p = 7.56 × 10−4); clinically significant steatosis (rs12979860, p = 1.82 × 10−3; rs2896019, p = 1.27 × 10−4); and steatosis severity (rs12979860, p = 2.05 × 10−8; rs2896019, p = 2.62 × 10−6). Obesity, hypertriglyceridemia, hyperglycemia, liver fibrosis, and liver inflammation were all independently associated with worse steatosis. Hepatic steatosis was associated with lower SVR, and this effect was attenuated by IL28B. PNPLA3 had no independent association with SVR.
IL28B and PNPLA3 are associated with hepatic steatosis prevalence and severity in Caucasians with G1 HCV, suggesting differing potential genetic risk pathways to steatosis. IL28B attenuates the association between steatosis and SVR. Remediable metabolic risk factors remain important, independently of these polymorphisms, and remain key therapeutic goals to achieve better outcomes for patients with HCV-associated hepatic steatosis.