New Epidemic of Sexually Transmitted Hepatitis C Infection in HIV-infected Men in NYC
ALEXANDRIA, Va. and BOSTON, Oct. 30 -- Researchers in New York City are reporting their work uncovering a new epidemic of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) who have HIV infection. These authors have previously reported unusually rapid fibrosis progression due to new HCV in MSM who have HIV infection and now expand on their findings, demonstrating that sexual transmission rather than injection drug use is the route of infection. Treatment is highly successful if started early in the course of infection, however, they report ominous news about liver disease progression. "This epidemic represents a new clinical syndrome for HCV infection that turns much of our knowledge on its ear: a new risk group becoming infected through a previously rare route of transmission resulting in unprecedented progression of liver fibrosis," said Daniel Fierer, MD, principal investigator on this study.
In an analysis of 21 HCV-infected patients matched with uninfected controls, unprotected receptive anal and oral sex were significantly associated with new HCV infection. Neither current nor prior injection drug use was associated with HCV infection. In addition, treatment with pegylated interferon and ribavirin, initiated within 6 months of diagnosis, was completed in 16 patients with genotype 1 HCV infection; 12 (75%) achieved sustained viral response (SVR), compared to the 15-30% SVR rate expected with chronic genotype 1 HCV infection. Of significant concern, however, 30 patients underwent liver biopsy during the early infection period and 23 (77%) already had moderate fibrosis, making early curative treatment even more important to prevent further progression of liver fibrosis.
Because of these findings, study authors recommend routine screening for acute HCV for all MSM patients with HIV, using a simple and inexpensive algorithm of ALT measurement every 3 months and HCV antibody measurement every 6 to 12 months. "Changing the perception and behavior of physicians and patients is difficult," said Dr. Fierer, "One of the main barriers to early detection is the lack of recognition by physicians and patients alike that HIV-infected MSM are at risk for HCV infection. This lack of perception of the problem results in lack of screening of HIV-infected MSM and therefore lack of timely diagnosis and treatment."
Dr. Fierer thinks the next steps in battling this epidemic are educating HIV providers about the existence of this world-wide epidemic, educating patients at risk that unprotected sex among HIV-infected men is a significant risk for HCV infection, and changing the official recommendations by the US national authorities such as the CDC, HIVMA, etc, as has already been done in Europe and more recently at the state level in New York.
Characterization of an epidemic of sexually-transmitted acute hepatitis C infection in HIV-infected men in New York City
About the AASLD
AASLD is the leading medical society focused solely on advancing the science and practice of hepatology and represents more than 3,300 practitioners, researchers, and allied health professionals worldwide. Founded by physicians in 1950, AASLD has upheld the standards of the profession and fostered research that generates treatment options for the millions of patients with liver diseases.
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SOURCE American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD)