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Anti-inflammatory cytokines, pro-fibrogenic chemokines and persistence of acute HCV infection


Correspondence: Andrea L. Cox, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Rangos Bldg Room 536, 855 N. Wolfe St, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.



Chemokines and cytokines play a vital role in directing and regulating immune responses to viral infections. Persistent hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is characterized by the loss of anti-HCV cellular immune responses, while control of HCV infection is associated with maintenance of anti-HCV cellular immune responses. To determine whether plasma concentrations of 19 chemokines and cytokines controlling T-cell trafficking and function differed based on infection outcome, we compared them in at-risk subjects followed prospectively for HCV infection. Levels were compared over time in subjects who controlled HCV infection (Clearance) and subjects who developed persistent HCV infection (Persistence) at two time points during acute infection: (i) first viraemic sample (initial viraemia) and (ii) last viraemic sample in Clearance subjects and time-matched samples in Persistence subjects. At initial viraemia, increased pro-inflammatory tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα) plasma concentrations were observed in the Clearance group, while the plasma levels of anti-inflammatory interleukin (IL)-2, IL-10 and IL-13 were higher in the Persistence group. IL-13 was positively correlated with IL-2 and IL-10 at initial viraemia in the Persistence group. At the time of last viraemia, plasma levels of eotaxin, macrophage chemoattractant protein-4 (MCP-4), IL-5 and IL-10 were higher in the Persistence group and IL-10 and IL-5 levels were positively correlated. Collectively, these results suggest that the development of persistent infection is associated with an anti-inflammatory and pro-fibrogenic chemokine and cytokine profile that is evident at the onset of infection and maintained throughout acute infection.

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