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Iron Loading Mutation Linked to Hepatitis C Response

Patients with mutation show better responses to therapy with ribavirin and pegylated interferon alfa-2a

MONDAY, Nov. 27 (HealthDay News) -- While mutations in the HFE gene have been linked to increased iron loading and possible liver injury, they also correlate with sustained virologic responses to chronic hepatitis C therapy, according to a report in the November issue of Gastroenterology.

Herbert L. Bonkovsky, M.D., of the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, and members of the Hepatitis C Anti-viral Long-term Treatment to prevent Cirrhosis (HALT-C) Trial Group assessed the influence of HFE mutations and iron status on response to combination therapy with pegylated interferon alfa-2a/ribavirin therapy in 1,051 subjects with advanced chronic hepatitis C. All subjects had not responded to previous interferon treatment.

The authors found no significant difference in frequency of HFE mutations in patients with fibrosis versus cirrhosis. However, the presence of HFE mutation was associated with increased end-of-treatment (40 versus 29 percent) and sustained virologic responses (20 versus 14 percent) compared to those without mutations.

The "unique observation of a possibly discordant relationship between the effects of iron and HFE gene mutations" should provide insight into the role of the HFE protein in chronic viral disease, according to Kris Kowdley, M.D., and a colleague from the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, in an editorial.

Some of the authors have financial relationships with Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc.

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