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Abstract

Genetic polymorphisms near IL28B are associated with spontaneous and treatment-induced clearance of hepatitis C virus (HCV), two processes that require the appropriate activation of the host immune responses. Intrahepatic inflammation is believed to mirror such activation, but its relationship with IL28B polymorphisms has yet to be fully appreciated. We analyzed the association of IL28B polymorphisms with histological and follow-up features in 2335 chronically HCV-infected Caucasian patients. Assessable phenotypes before any antiviral treatment included necroinflammatory activity (n = 1,098), fibrosis (n = 1,527), fibrosis progression rate (n = 1,312), and hepatocellular carcinoma development (n = 1,915). Associations of alleles with the phenotypes were evaluated by univariate analysis and multivariate logistic regression, accounting for all relevant covariates. The rare G allele at IL28B marker rs8099917—previously shown to be at risk of treatment failure—was associated with lower activity (P = 0.04), lower fibrosis (P = 0.02) with a trend toward lower fibrosis progression rate (P = 0.06). When stratified according to HCV genotype, most significant associations were observed in patients infected with non-1 genotypes (P = 0.003 for activity, P = 0.001 for fibrosis, and P = 0.02 for fibrosis progression rate), where the odds ratio of having necroinflammation or rapid fibrosis progression for patients with IL28B genotypes TG or GG versus TT were 0.48 (95% confidence intervals 0.30-0.78) and 0.56 (0.35-0.92), respectively. IL28B polymorphisms were not predictive of the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. Conclusion: In chronic hepatitis C, IL28B variants associated with poor response to interferon therapy may predict slower fibrosis progression, especially in patients infected with non-1 HCV genotypes. (HEPATOLOGY 2012)