Background and Aim: Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a ubiquitous pathogen that infects the majority of humans. Co-infection of CMV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) may deteriorate the prognosis of HCV-infected patients. This study was conducted to examine the role of CMV reactivation in determining the response rate to treatment with interferon and ribavirin therapy in chronic HCV patients.
Methods: Viral loads and genotyping were assessed using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and Innolipa systems, respectively. Reactivation of CMV in HCV patients who were all positive for CMV immunoglobulin G antibodies was tested by amplification of the gB1 gene using the end-point dilution quantitative-nested polymerase chain reaction method.
Results: CMV DNA was detected in 89.7% of non-responders and in 34.6% of sustained virological responders. Patients with reactivated CMV had significantly higher fibrosis scores (72.7%) than those with undetectable CMV DNA (23.8%, P = 0.002). Patients with positive CMV had higher rates of non-response and relapse (79.5%) than those with negative CMV DNA (19%). Chronic HCV patients with latent CMV had higher rates of response (81%) to treatment than those with reactivated CMV (20.5%, P < 0.001). Therefore, HCV patients with reactivated CMV and advanced fibrosis were least likely to achieve a sustained virological response following interferon therapy. This possibility is reduced to 50% of its original value in patients with reactivated CMV without fibrosis.
Conclusions: Besides the staging of liver fibrosis, CMV co-infection should be considered as an extremely important factor when designing predictive models for HCV response to interferon treatment.