Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infects approximately 170 million individuals worldwide. Prevention of HCV infection complications is based on antiviral therapy with the combination of pegylated interferon alfa and ribavirin. The use of serological and virological tests has become essential in the management of HCV infection in order to diagnose infection, guide treatment decisions and assess the virological response to antiviral therapy. Anti-HCV antibody testing and HCV RNA testing are used to diagnose acute and chronic hepatitis C. The HCV genotype should be systematically determined before treatment, as it determines the indication, the duration of treatment, the dose of ribavirin and the virological monitoring procedure. HCV RNA monitoring during therapy is used to tailor treatment duration in HCV genotype 1 infection, and molecular assays are used to assess the end-of-treatment and, most importantly the sustained virological response, i.e. the endpoint of therapy.
Hepatitis C virus; serological tests; Hepatitis C virus genotype; HCV RNA quantification; Interferon alpha; Ribavirin
Molecular biology techniques are routinely used to diagnose and monitor treatment of patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. These tools can detect and quantify viral genomes, and analyze their sequence, in order to determine their genotype or subtype and to identify nucleotide or amino acid substitutions associated with resistance to antiviral drugs. They include real-time target amplification methods, which have been standardized and are widely used in clinical practice to diagnose and monitor HBV and HCV infections, and next-generation sequencing techniques, which are still restricted to research laboratories. In addition, new enzyme immunoassays can quantify hepatitis B surface and hepatitis C core antigens, and point-of-care tests and alternatives to biologic tests that require whole-blood samples obtained by venipuncture have been developed. We review these new virologic methods and their clinical and research applications to HBV and HCV infections.
Members of the Gadd45 family play central roles in the cellular response to genotoxic stress, and have been implicated in several human cancers including hepatocellular carcinomas. Chronic infection by hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major risk factor for the onset and development of primary hepatocellular tumors, although the underlying mechanisms are unclear. Here, we demonstrate a novel link between diminished Gadd45β expression and HCV infection. Inhibited Gadd45β expression was observed in both non-tumoral and tumoral tissues from infected individuals, and in cell lines harboring an HCV replicon and the infectious HCV strain JFH1. Decreased Gadd45β expression was confirmed in vivo in a transgenic murine model expressing the entire HCV open reading frame. Mechanistically, hypermethylation of the Gadd45β promoter in the presence of HCV is responsible for this defect. Diminished Gadd45β expression leads to aberrant cell cycle arrest and diminished DNA excision repair. Together, these results provide a novel insight into the mechanisms involved in HCV-associated hepatocellular carcinomas, showing that reduced Gadd45β expression may play a contributory role to this process, and providing evidence that HCV may interfere with epigenetic gene expression by altering promoter methylation.
hepatocellular carcinoma; HCV; Gadd45β; Adult; Aged; Animals; Antigens, Differentiation; Blotting, Western; Carcinoma, Hepatocellular; Cell Cycle; Cells, Cultured; DNA Methylation; DNA Repair; Down-Regulation; Female; Hepacivirus; Hepatitis C; Hepatocytes; Humans; Liver ; Liver Neoplasms; Luciferases; Male; Mice; Mice, Inbred C57BL; Mice, Transgenic; Middle Aged; Promoter Regions, Genetic; RNA, Messenger; RNA, Small Interfering; pharmacology; Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction; Virus Replication
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) is a key target for antiviral intervention. The goal of this study was to identify the binding site and unravel the molecular mechanism by which natural flavonoids efficiently inhibit HCV RdRp. Screening identified the flavonol quercetagetin as the most potent inhibitor of HCV RdRp activity. Quercetagetin was found to inhibit RdRp through inhibition of RNA binding to the viral polymerase, a yet unknown antiviral mechanism. X-ray crystallographic structure analysis of the RdRp-quercetagetin complex identified quercetagetin's binding site at the entrance of the RNA template tunnel, confirming its original mode of action. This antiviral mechanism was associated with a high barrier to resistance in both site-directed mutagenesis and long-term selection experiments. In conclusion, we identified a new mechanism for non-nucleoside inhibition of HCV RdRp through inhibition of RNA binding to the enzyme, a mechanism associated with broad genotypic activity and a high barrier to resistance. Our results open the way to new antiviral approaches for HCV and other viruses that use an RdRp based on RNA binding inhibition, that could prove to be useful in human, animal or plant viral infections.
Silymarin, an extract of milk thistle seeds, and silymarin-derived compounds have been considered hepatoprotective since the plant was first described in ancient times. Hepatoprotection is defined as several non-mutually exclusive biological activities including antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory functions. Despite clear evidence for silymarin-induced hepatoprotection in cell culture and animal models, evidence for beneficial effects in humans has been equivocal. This review will summarize the current state of knowledge on silymarin in the context of hepatitis C virus infection. The information was collated from a recent workshop on silibinin in Germany.
The existence of hepatitis C virus proteins encoded by alternate reading frames overlapping the core-encoding region has been suggested. Several mechanisms of production have been postulated and the function(s) of these proteins in the HCV life cycle remain(s) unknown. We analyzed cases of seroconversion to an alternate reading frame protein in a group of 17 patients infected by the one of two hepatitis C virus genotype 1b strains during an outbreak in a hemodialysis unit. Three patients seroconverted and antibodies were transiently detected in another patient. Three of these patients were infected by one of the two HCV strains, whereas the strain infecting the remaining patient could not be identified. Quasispecies sequence analysis of the core-coding region showed no differences in the core or +1 reading frame sequences that could explain alternate reading frame protein seroconversion in some but not all of the patients infected by one of the HCV strains, and no such difference was found between the two strains. As differences in the structure of RNA elements could play a role in frameshift events, we conducted a predictive analysis of RNA folding by using RNAfold software. No difference was found between the patients who did and did not seroconvert to alternate reading frame protein.
our findings prove that alternate reading frame proteins can be produced during acute HCV infection. However, seroconversion does not occur in all patients for unknown reasons. Alternate reading frame protein could be generated by minority quasispecies variants or variants that occur transiently.
Alternative Splicing; Disease Outbreaks; Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay; Female; Genotype; Hemodialysis Units, Hospital; Hepacivirus; genetics; immunology; Hepatitis Antibodies; blood; Hepatitis C; virology; Humans; Male; Middle Aged; Protein Structure, Secondary; RNA, Viral; blood; genetics; Reading Frames; Sensitivity and Specificity; Sequence Analysis, RNA; Viral Proteins; genetics; immunology; ARFP; antibodies; acute hepatitis C; seroconversion
In patients with hepatitis B e antigen-negative chronic hepatitis B, adefovir dipivoxil administration selects variants bearing reverse transcriptase rtN236T and/or rtA181V/T substitutions in 29% of cases after 5 years. The aim of this work was to characterize the dynamics of adefovir-resistant variant populations during adefovir monotherapy in order to better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying hepatitis B virus resistance to this class of nucleotide analogues. Patients included in a 240-week clinical trial of adefovir monotherapy who developed adefovir resistance-associated substitutions were studied. The dynamics of hepatitis B virus populations were analyzed over time, after generating nearly 4000 full-length reverse transcriptase sequences, and compared with the replication kinetics of the virus during therapy. Whatever the viral kinetics pattern, adefovir resistance was characterized by exclusive detection of a dominant wild-type, adefovir-sensitive variant population at baseline and late and gradual selection by adefovir of several coexisting resistant viral populations, defined by the presence of amino acid substitutions at position rt236, position rt181, or both. The gain in fitness of one or other of these resistant populations during adefovir administration was never associated with the selection of additional amino acid substitutions in the reverse transcriptase.
Our results suggest that adefovir administration selects poorly fit pre-existing or emerging viral populations with low-level adefovir resistance, which subsequently compete to fill the replication space. Viral kinetics depends on the initial virological response to adefovir. Lamivudine add-on restores some antiviral efficacy but adefovir-resistant variants remain predominant. Whether these adefovir resistance-associated substitutions may confer cross-resistance to tenofovir in vivo will need to be determined.
Adenine; analogs & derivatives; pharmacology; therapeutic use; Adult; Antiviral Agents; pharmacology; therapeutic use; DNA, Viral; chemistry; Drug Resistance, Viral; Female; Hepatitis B virus; drug effects; Hepatitis B, Chronic; drug therapy; Humans; Male; Middle Aged; Molecular Sequence Data; Phosphonic Acids; pharmacology; therapeutic use; Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction; Virus Replication; drug effects; quasispecies; amino acid substitutions; nucleotide analogues; treatment failure; viral populations
Treatment of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is aimed at suppressing viral replication to the lowest possible level, and thereby to halt the progression of liver disease and prevent the onset of complications. Two categories of drugs are used in HBV therapy: the interferons, including standard interferon alfa or pegylated interferon alfa, and specific nucleoside or nucleotide HBV inhibitors that target the reverse-transcriptase function of HBV-DNA polymerase. The reported results of clinical trials have used varying definitions of efficacy, failure, and resistance based on different measures of virologic responses. This article discusses HBV virologic markers and tests, and their optimal use both for planning and reporting clinical trials and in clinical practice.
The use of serological and virological tests has become essential in the management of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in order to diagnose infection, guide treatment decisions and assess the virological response to antiviral therapy. Virological tools include serological assays for anti-HCV antibody detection and serological determination of the HCV genotype, and molecular assays that detect and quantify HCV RNA and determine the HCV genotype. Anti-HCV antibody testing and HCV RNA testing are used to diagnose acute and chronic hepatitis C. Only patients with detectable HCV RNA should be considered for pegylated interferon alfa and ribavirin therapy and the HCV genotype should be systematically determined before treatment, as it determines the indication, the duration of treatment, the dose of ribavirin and the virological monitoring procedure. HCV RNA monitoring during therapy is used to tailor treatment duration in HCV genotype 1 infection, and molecular assays are used to assess the end-of-treatment and, most importantly the sustained virological response, i.e. the endpoint of therapy.
Hepatitis C virus; serological and virological tests; HCV RNA
Approximately 120-130 million individuals are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) worldwide, although it is curable by therapy. Until recently, treatment of chronic hepatitis C was based on the combination of pegylated interferon-α and ribavirin. A number of models have been developed to study the HCV lifecycle and screen for potential HCV inhibitors. They led to the development of antiviral agents that specifically target a viral function (direct acting antivirals), and host-targeted agents that inhibit HCV replication. Direct acting antivirals in clinical development include NS3-4A protease inhibitors (two of which, telaprevir and boceprevir, have recently been approved for treatment of HCV genotype 1 infection in combination with pegylated interferon-α and ribavirin), nucleoside/nucleotide analogue and non-nucleoside inhibitors of HCV RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, and NS5A inhibitors. Host-targeted agents include cyclophilin inhibitors. This article describes the direct acting antivirals and host-targeted agents that have recently been approved or have been tested in HCV-infected patients and discusses their two current paths of clinical development: with or without interferon-α.
Hepatitis C decreases health related quality of life (HRQL) which is further diminished by antiviral therapy. HRQL improves after successful treatment. This trial explores the course of and factors associated with HRQL in patients given individualized or standard treatment based on early treatment response (Ditto-study).
The Short Form (SF)-36 Health Survey was administered at baseline (n = 192) and 24 weeks after the end of therapy (n = 128).
At baseline HRQL was influenced by age, participating center, severity of liver disease and income. Exploring the course of HRQL (scores at follow up minus baseline), only the dimension general health increased. In this dimension patients with a relapse or sustained response differed from non-responders. Men and women differed in the dimension bodily pain. Treatment schedule did not influence the course of HRQL.
Main determinants of HRQL were severity of liver disease, age, gender, participating center and response to treatment. Our results do not exclude a more profound negative impact of individualized treatment compared to standard, possibly caused by higher doses and extended treatment duration in the individualized group. Antiviral therapy might have a more intense and more prolonged negative impact on females.
health related quality of life; hepatitis C; peginterferon
We characterized a novel substitution conferring moderate resistance to telaprevir, a peptidomimetic inhibitor of hepatitis C virus protease. V36C conferred a 4.0-fold increase in the telaprevir 50% inhibitory concentration in an enzyme assay and a 9.5-fold increase in the replicon model. The replication capacity of a replicon harboring V36C was close to that of the wild-type protease. This case emphasizes the complexity of hepatitis C virus resistance to protease inhibitors.
With the development of new specific inhibitors of hepatitis C virus (HCV) enzymes and functions that may yield different antiviral responses and resistance profiles according to the HCV subtype, correct HCV genotype 1 subtype identification is mandatory in clinical trials for stratification and interpretation purposes and will likely become necessary in future clinical practice. The goal of this study was to identify the appropriate molecular tool(s) for accurate HCV genotype 1 subtype determination.
A large cohort of 500 treatment-naïve patients eligible for HCV drug trials and infected with either subtype 1a or 1b was studied. Methods based on the sole analysis of the 5′ non-coding region (5′NCR) by sequence analysis or reverse hybridization failed to correctly identify HCV subtype 1a in 22.8%–29.5% of cases, and HCV subtype 1b in 9.5%–8.7% of cases. Natural polymorphisms at positions 107, 204 and/or 243 were responsible for mis-subtyping with these methods. A real-time PCR method using genotype- and subtype-specific primers and probes located in both the 5′NCR and the NS5B-coding region failed to correctly identify HCV genotype 1 subtype in approximately 10% of cases. The second-generation line probe assay, a reverse hybridization assay that uses probes targeting both the 5′NCR and core-coding region, correctly identified HCV subtypes 1a and 1b in more than 99% of cases.
In the context of new HCV drug development, HCV genotyping methods based on the exclusive analysis of the 5′NCR should be avoided. The second-generation line probe assay is currently the best commercial assay for determination of HCV genotype 1 subtypes 1a and 1b in clinical trials and practice.
Quantification of hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA is essential for the everyday management of chronic hepatitis C therapy. “Real-time” PCR techniques are potentially more sensitive than classical PCR techniques, are not prone to carryover contamination, and have a consistently wider dynamic range of quantification. Thus, they are rapidly replacing other technologies for routine quantification of HCV RNA. We extensively evaluated the intrinsic characteristics and clinical performance of the m2000sp-m2000rt Abbott real-time PCR platform for HCV RNA quantification. The study shows that the m2000sp-m2000rt platform is sensitive, specific, and precise; that the results are reproducible; and that the platform has a broad dynamic range of quantification. When comparing HCV RNA levels measured in the same individuals with the m2000sp-m2000rt platform and the third-generation branched-DNA assay, a trend toward a modest overestimation of HCV RNA levels was observed in the m2000sp-m2000rt platform in all genotypes except genotype 5. The differences, however, were unlikely to have any impact in clinical practice. In conclusion, our study shows that the Abbott m2000 real-time PCR system for HCV RNA quantification is sensitive, specific, and precise; that the results are reproducible; and that the platform's broad dynamic range of quantification is well suited to HCV RNA monitoring in the clinical setting.
Treatment of chronic hepatitis C is currently based on a combination of pegylated
interferon-o! and ribavirin. Neither drug exerts direct selective pressure on
viral functions, meaning that interferon-a/ribavirin treatment failure is not
due to selection of interferon-a- or ribavirin-resistant viral variants. Several
novel antiviral approaches are currently in preclinical or clinical development,
and most target viral enzymes and functions, such as hepatitis C virus protease
and polymerase. These new drugs all potentially select resistant viral variants
both in vitro and in vivo, and resistance is
therefore likely to become an important issue in clinical practice.
hepatitis C virus; resistance; interferon-a; ribavirin; protease inhibitors; polymerase inhibitors
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA quantification is used to establish the prognosis of chronic HBV-related liver disease, to identify those patients who need to be treated, and to monitor the virologic response and resistance to antiviral therapies. Real-time PCR-based assays are gradually replacing other technologies for routine quantification of HBV DNA in clinical practice. The goal of this study was to evaluate the intrinsic characteristics and clinical performance of the real-time PCR Cobas AmpliPrep/Cobas TaqMan (CAP/CTM) platform for HBV DNA quantification. Specificity was satisfactory (95% confidence interval, 98.1 to 100%). Intra-assay coefficients of variation ranged from 0.22% to 2.68%, and interassay coefficients of variation ranged from 1.31% to 4.13%. Quantification was linear over the full dynamic range of quantification of the assay (1.7 to 8.0 log10 IU/ml) and was not affected by dilution. The assay was accurate regardless of the HBV genotype. Samples containing HBV DNA levels above 4.5 log10 IU/ml were slightly underestimated relative to another accurate assay based on branched-DNA technology, but this is unlikely to have noteworthy clinical implications. Thus, the CAP/CTM HBV DNA assay is sensitive, specific, and reproducible, and it accurately quantifies HBV DNA levels in patients chronically infected by HBV genotypes A to F. Samples with HBV DNA concentrations above the upper limit of quantification need to be diluted and then retested. Broad use of fully automated real-time PCR assays should improve the management of patients with chronic HBV infection.
The addition of ribavirin to alpha interferon therapy significantly increases response rates for patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, but ribavirin's antiviral mechanisms are unknown. Ribavirin has been suggested to have mutagenic potential in vitro that would lead to “error catastrophe,” i.e., the generation of nonviable viral quasispecies due to the increment in the number of mutant genomes, which prevents the transmission of meaningful genetic information. We used extensive sequence-based analysis of two independent genomic regions in order to test in vivo the hypothesis that ribavirin administration accelerates the accumulation of mutations in the viral genome and that this acceleration occurs only when HCV replication is profoundly inhibited by coadministered alpha interferon. The rate of variation of the consensus sequence, the frequency of mutation, the error generation rate, and the between-sample genetic distance were measured for patients receiving ribavirin monotherapy, a combination of alpha interferon three times per week plus ribavirin, or a combination of alpha interferon daily plus ribavirin. Ribavirin monotherapy did not increase the rate of variation of the consensus sequence, the mutation frequency, the error generation rate, or the between-sample genetic distance. The accumulation of nucleotide substitutions did not accelerate, relative to the pretreatment period, during combination therapy with ribavirin and alpha interferon, even when viral replication was profoundly inhibited by alpha interferon. This study strongly undermines the hypothesis whereby ribavirin acts as an HCV mutagen in vivo.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) genome shows remarkable sequence variability, leading to the classification of at least six major genotypes, numerous subtypes and a myriad of quasispecies within a given host. A database allowing researchers to investigate the genetic and structural variability of all available HCV sequences is an essential tool for studies on the molecular virology and pathogenesis of hepatitis C as well as drug design and vaccine development. We describe here the European Hepatitis C Virus Database (euHCVdb, ), a collection of computer-annotated sequences based on reference genomes. The annotations include genome mapping of sequences, use of recommended nomenclature, subtyping as well as three-dimensional (3D) molecular models of proteins. A WWW interface has been developed to facilitate database searches and the export of data for sequence and structure analyses. As part of an international collaborative effort with the US and Japanese databases, the European HCV Database (euHCVdb) is mainly dedicated to HCV protein sequences, 3D structures and functional analyses.
Lamivudine was the first approved inhibitor of hepatitis B virus (HBV) reverse transcriptase (RT). Lamivudine resistance develops in 53% to 76% of patients after 3 years of treatment. We extensively characterized the dynamics of HBV quasispecies variant populations in four HBV-infected patients who developed lamivudine resistance. Virological breakthrough was preceded by 2 to 4 months by the emergence of quasispecies variants bearing amino acid substitutions at RT position 204, i.e., within the YMDD catalytic motif (rtM204V/I). Three patients had a gradual switch from a YMDD variant population at baseline to a 100% lamivudine-resistant variant population, whereas the remaining patient had a fluctuating pattern of resistance variant dynamics. Careful analysis of amino acid substitutions located outside domain C of HBV RT, including those known to partially restore replication capacities in vitro, showed that the in vivo replication of HBV variants is driven by multiple forces, including intrinsic replicative advantages conferred by mutations accumulating outside domain C and the changing environment in which these variants replicate. Our findings also suggest that individual treatment optimization will require sensitive methods capable of detecting the emergence of viral resistance before the relevant variants acquire optimal replicative capacities.
Accurate quantification of hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA is needed in clinical practice to decide whether to continue or stop pegylated interferon-α-ribavirin combination therapy at week 12 of treatment for patients with chronic hepatitis C. Currently the HCV RNA quantification assay most widely used worldwide is the Amplicor HCV Monitor v2.0 assay (Roche Molecular Systems, Pleasanton, Calif.). The HCV RNA extraction step can be automated in the Cobas Ampliprep device. In this work, we show that the dynamic range of HCV RNA quantification of the Cobas Ampliprep/Cobas Amplicor HCV Monitor v2.0 procedure is 600 to 200,000 HCV RNA IU/ml (2.8 to 5.3 log IU/ml), which does not cover the full range of HCV RNA levels in infected patients. Any sample containing more than 200,000 IU/ml (5.3 log IU/ml) must thus be retested after dilution for accurate quantification. These results emphasize the need for commercial HCV RNA quantification assays with a broader range of linear quantification, such as real-time PCR-based assays.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) behaves in infected patients as a complex mixture of genetically distinct but closely related variants referred to as a “quasispecies.” By using quasispecies analysis strategies, we showed that HCV nonstructural protein 5A (NS5A) has a quasispecies distribution in infected humans and that NS5A quasispecies undergo significant genetic evolution over time, as a result of random accumulation of nucleotide mutations during replication. Genetic evolution of the NS5A quasispecies results in sporadic amino acid changes in the protein sequence. By using the functional in vitro model of HCV NS5A transcriptional activation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we showed that natural NS5A quasispecies variants induce different levels of transcriptional activation, according to the charge of the residues (and possibly minor conformational changes) in the quasispecies variant sequence. These findings show that the accumulation of mutations on HCV genomes during replication randomly generates variant proteins with quantitatively different functional properties. The fact that each new variant protein is initially produced in a single infected hepatocyte and may or may not subsequently spread throughout the liver (depending on the replication capacities of the variant virus) points to cellular compartmentalization of virus-host interactions during chronic infection. This feature of quasispecies-distributed viruses could play an important role in various aspects of the viral life cycle and related disease.
Last-generation nucleoside/nucleotide analogues are potent against hepatitis B virus (HBV) and have a high barrier to resistance. However, delayed responses have been observed in patients previously exposed to other drugs of the same class, long-term resistance is possible, and cure of infection cannot be achieved with these therapies, emphasizing the need for alternative therapeutic approaches. The HBV RNase H represents an interesting target because its enzyme activity is essential to the HBV life cycle. The goal of our study was to characterize the structure of the HBV RNase H by computing a 3-dimensional molecular model derived from E. coli RNase H and analyzing 2,326 sequences of all HBV genotypes available in public databases and 958,000 sequences generated by means of ultradeep pyrosequencing of sequences from a homogenous population of 73 treatment-naive patients infected with HBV genotype D. Our data revealed that (i) the putative 4th catalytic residue displays unexpected variability that could be explained by the overlap of the HBx gene and has no apparent impact on HBV replicative capacity and that (ii) the C-helix-containing basic protrusion, which is required to guide the RNA/DNA heteroduplex into the catalytic site, is highly conserved and bears unique structural properties that can be used to target HBV-specific RNase H inhibitors without cross-species activity. The model shows substantial differences from other known RNases H and paves the way for functional and structural studies as a prerequisite to the development of new inhibitors of the HBV cell cycle specifically targeting RNase H activity.
Chronic hepatitis C is a common cause of liver disease, the complications of which include cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Treatment of chronic hepatitis C is based on the use of alpha interferon (IFN-α). Recently, indirect evidence based on mathematical modeling of hepatitis C virus (HCV) dynamics during human IFN-α therapy suggested that the major initial effect of IFN-α is to block HCV virion production or release. Here, we used primary cultures of healthy, uninfected human hepatocytes to show that: (i) healthy human hepatocytes can be infected in vitro and support HCV genome replication, (ii) hepatocyte treatment with IFN-α results in expression of IFN-α-induced genes, and (iii) IFN-α inhibits HCV replication in infected human hepatocytes. These results show that IFN-α acts primarily through its nonspecific antiviral effects and suggest that primary cultures of human hepatocytes may provide a good model to study intrinsic HCV resistance to IFN-α.
silymarin; silibini; hepatitis C; HCV; liver