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Keywords:

  • hepatitis C virus protease inhibitors;
  • hepatitis C;
  • interferon;
  • liver transplantation;
  • ribavirin

Abstract

Liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus is the main indication for liver transplantation in Western countries. However, HCV re-infection post-transplantation is constant and recent data confirm that it significantly impairs patient and graft survival. Chronic HCV infection develops in 75–90% of patients, and 5–30% ultimately progress to cirrhosis within 5 years. Because of the impact of HCV recurrence on graft and patient survival, several treatment strategies have been evaluated. Antiviral therapy could be administered before transplantation to suppress viral replication and reduce the risk of recurrence. However, this approach is applicable in around 50% of patients and tolerance is poor, particularly in patients with decompensated cirrhosis. Pre-emptive therapy in the early post-transplant period is limited by the high rate of side effects. Frequently, antiviral therapy is initiated when HCV recurs to obtain viral eradication and/or reduce disease progression. Treatment of established graft lesions with Pegylated Interferon (PEG-IFN) and Ribavirin (RBV) combination therapy results in a sustained virological response (SVR) in around 30% of patients. The new classes of potent and direct antiviral agents (DAA) will certainly improve the results of pre- and post-transplant antiviral therapy. However, at the present time, no data are available on the use of these drugs in patients with decompensated cirrhosis or post-transplant hepatitis.