Hepatitis C and G co-infection: Response to interferon therapy and quantitative changes in serum HGV-RNA



Hepatitis G virus (HGV), a positive sense RNA virus, is distantly related to hepatitis C virus (HCV): its genetic organization and identity are consistent with the Flaviviridae family. Coinfection with HGV occurs in 10% to 20% of HCV-infected subjects. These similarities raise two theoretical questions. First, could HGV coinfection play any role in the response of HCV to antiviral therapy and second, would this coinfected population have changes in serum HGV-RNA induced by interferon. To address these questions, 98 patients with documented chronic HCV underwent interferon therapy (3 million units three times a week) for 6 months. Response to therapy was categorized using standard biochemical criteria. Changes in HGV-RNA levels were evaluated before, during, and after interferon therapy by a quantitative branched DNA amplification research-based assay. Eleven of 98 (11%) patients with HCV infection had detectable serum HGV-RNA. There was no difference between the groups (HGV+ vs. HGV-) when baseline alanine aminotransferase (ALT) values, HCV-RNA levels, HCV genotype, histological severity, or other demographic features were analyzed. Interferon response was similar in both groups and HGV was not associated with outcome following therapy. Antiviral therapy appeared to induce a reduction in HGV-RNA load in five of nine patients coinfected with HCV serially tested. In two patients, the fall in serum HGV-RNA correlated with biochemical response, independent of changes in HCV-RNA. These observations indicate that a larger study of an HGV population is required to more clearly define the relationship between HCV and HGV coinfection and their response to antiviral therapy.