Taken on their own, both Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can be deadly. Combined, they are one of the most serious health threats that an individual can face. Unfortunately, HIV and HCV co-infection is also a relatively common problem due to the fact that both diseases share same sources of transmission. Between fifteen and thirty percent of patients with HIV infection are also suffering from HCV. Exposure to infected blood, sexual intercourse, and mother to child transmission can all spread each disease simultaneously. In worst case scenarios, HCV infection can progress beyond self-limiting status and lead to liver cirrhosis and cancer.
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS and wreaks havoc on the body by destroying the immune system, raising the susceptibility to other infections and diseases. HCV infection is a serious problem that attacks the liver, and can eventually lead to death if left untreated. Due to the HIV infection, those with HCV co-infection display higher rates of disease progression, drug interactions, and many other problems caused by the combination of the two conditions. Recent studies, however, have shown promise in the area of treatment against HCV. These studies have shown that management of HCV infection can be better than it once was.
Obviously, treatment of HCV infection holds an ultimate goal of curing the disease. In other words, total eradication of the virus within the body is possible with HCV. This outcome is still unreached, however, in about half of co-infection cases due to lower rates of response. In these patients, treatment focuses on reducing the risks of liver failure and cancer, while awaiting for new therapeutic agents. HCV infection cure is achieved mainly through the use of a combination of 2 drugs known as pegylated interferon and ribavirin.
In HIV and HCV co-infected patients, not only the rates of response are lower but the occurrence of adverse side effects is increased. Around twelve percent of the patients undergoing treatment are forced to stop it due toxicities like depression, anemia, decrease in white blood cells. New kinds of drugs against HCV are awaited in 2011, named the Protease inhibitors, which are very active against the virus. They will still have to be administered in combination with pegylated interferon and ribavirin, but for a shorter period of time. They also have their own toxicities, such as cytopenia and allergies, but will greatly increase the response rates.
Therapeutic options are moving this year for co-infected patients. Even if HIV infection cannot be cured, more patients will get rid of HCV.
International Symposium on HIV & Emerging Infectious Diseases (ISHEID):
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