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Keywords:

  • central nervous system;
  • cognitive deficits;
  • health-related quality of life;
  • hepatitis C virus;
  • novel agents;
  • sustained viral response

Summary.  Chronic infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) has a profound effect on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) – with fatigue, depression and neurocognitive deficits among the most common complaints. Neuropsychiatric symptoms have prompted research to determine whether the HCV acts within the central nervous system. Replicating virus has been found in central nervous tissues, and changes in neurotransmitter levels in the frontal white matter of patients with chronic hepatitis C are correlated with impaired attention and concentration. Other symptoms of chronic hepatitis C that decrease HRQoL include associated sexual dysfunction and depression. Treatment of chronic HCV infection may temporarily worsen HRQoL, and common adverse effects of currently available agents include fatigue, muscle aches, depression and cognitive deficits. The relationship between sustained viral response and improvement in HRQoL is nonetheless well accepted. Although treatment-related adverse effects may dissuade people from starting therapy and reduce compliance with associated reductions in sustained viral response, for the majority of patients viral clearance produces improvements in both HRQoL and long-term prognosis. Novel agents, with improved adverse effect profiles, may afford more patients the opportunity to achieve a sustained viral response.