Antiretroviral therapy, interferon sensitivity, and virologic setpoint in human immunodeficiency virus/hepatitis C virus coinfected patients


  • Potential conflict of interest: Dr. Balagopal advises Merck. Dr. Sulkowski advises and received grants from Gilead and Merck. Dr. Ray consults for Boehringer Ingelheim.

  • Supported by R37 DA 013806, R01 DA 016078 and 1P30AI094189. This publication was made possible by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR) which is funded in part by Grant Number UL1 TR 000424-06 through a Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official view of the Johns Hopkins ICTR, NCATS, or NIH. Tenofovir DF and emtricitabine were donated by Gilead. Peginterferon alfa 2b and raltegravir were donated by Merck.


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) cause substantial mortality, especially in persons chronically infected with both viruses. HIV infection raises plasma HCV RNA levels and diminishes the response to exogenous alpha interferon (IFN). The degree to which antiretroviral therapy (ART) control of infection overcomes these HIV effects is unknown. Participants with HIV-HCV coinfection were enrolled in a trial to measure HCV viral kinetics after IFN administration (ΔHCVIFN) twice: initially before (pre-ART) and then after (post-ART) HIV RNA suppression. Liver tissue was obtained 2-4 hours before each IFN injection to measure interferon stimulated genes (ISGs). Following ART, the ΔHCVIFN at 72 hours (ΔHCVIFN,72) increased in 15/19 (78.9%) participants by a median (interquartile range [IQR]) of 0.11 log10 IU/mL (0.00-0.40; P < 0.05). Increases in ΔHCVIFN,72 post-ART were associated with decreased hepatic expression of several ISGs (r = −0.68; P = 0.001); a 2-fold reduction in a four-gene ISG signature predicted an increase in ΔHCVIFN,72 of 0.78 log10 IU/mL (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.36,1.20). Pre- and post-ART ΔHCVIFN,72 were closely associated (r = 0.87; P < 0.001). HCV virologic setpoint also changed after ART (ΔHCVART): transient median increases of 0.28 log10 IU/mL were followed by eventual median decreases from baseline of 0.21 log10 IU/mL (P = 0.002). A bivariate model of HIV RNA control (P < 0.05) and increased expression of a nine-gene ISG signature (P < 0.001) predicted the eventual decreased ΔHCVART. Conclusion: ART is associated with lower post-IFN HCV RNA levels and that change is linked to reduced hepatic ISG expression. These data support recommendations to provide ART prior to IFN-based treatment of HCV and may provide insights into the pathogenesis of HIV-HCV coinfection. (Hepatology 2014;60:477–486)