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Abstract

The response to antiviral therapy is lower in hepatitis C virus (HCV) patients with genotype 1 than in those with genotype 2. Overexpression of the suppressor of cytokine signaling 3 (SOCS3) gene in liver tissue is associated with a poorer treatment outcome in patients with chronic hepatitis C viral genotype 1. Also, insulin resistance has been implicated in nonresponse to an anti-HCV treatment. To understand why HCV genotype 1 patients respond differently, we investigated SOCS3 gene expression, metabolic syndrome (MS), and the response to therapy in a cohort of patients with HCV-related hepatitis. A total of 198 patients (108 with genotype 1 and 90 with genotype 2) treated with pegylated interferon plus ribavirin were consecutively enrolled in the study. We measured SOCS3 expression in Epstein-Barr virus–transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines derived from peripheral lymphocytes of a subset of 130 patients. MS was more frequent in genotype 1 patients than in genotype 2 patients (P < 0.01). Nonresponders (P < 0.01), MS (P < 0.001), and genotype 1 (P < 0.001) were significantly related to SOCS3 overexpression. However, SOCS3 levels were higher in nonresponders also, regardless of the genotype (P < 0.01). In a univariate analysis, the genotype (P < 0.001), age (P < 0.001), SOCS3 (P < 0.001), and MS (P < 0.001) were significantly related to the response to therapy. However, in a multivariate analysis, SOCS3 was the only independent predictor of the response (odds ratio = 6.7; P < 0.005). Conclusion: We speculate that SOCS3 expression per se may influence the response to antiviral therapy and that the genotype 1b virus might induce its up-regulation. This may account for the different responses to therapy between genotype 1–infected and genotype 2–infected patients. (HEPATOLOGY 2007.)