Background/aims: The reason why patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype non-1 infection respond better to antiviral therapy than patients with genotype 1 infection is not known. The aim of this study is to explore the relation between the viral genotype, viral load, and the endogenous T cell response.
Methods: The viral genotype, the viral load, and the endogenous proliferative T cell response to the non-structural 3 protein (NS3) was analysed using serum and peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 103 patients with chronic HCV infection.
Results: Among 71 nontreated patients a T cell response was more common among those infected by genotype 3, as compared to those infected with genotype 1 (P<0.05). Among 32 patients undergoing antiviral therapy, presence of a T cell response was more common in genotype non-1 infected patients than in those infected by genotype 1 (P<0.01). Presence of a T cell response was related to a more rapid viral clearance (P<0,05), a negative HCV RNA test at week 12 (P<0.05), and a shorter viral half-life (P<0.05).
Conclusions: The presence of an NS3-specific T cell response is related to the viral genotype and to a more rapid clearance of HCV RNA during antiviral therapy.