The most important aim in controlling virus infections is to destroy infected cells. Impaired cellular immunity in HIV and HCV infection leads to chronic infection. This study examined the effect of cytapheresis on the subsequent response to interferon/ribavirin treatment in patients infected with HCV. Adacolumn cytapheresis was carried out once a day for 5 consecutive days in patients who relapsed or did not respond to previous peginterferon and ribavirin combination treatment (n = 14: relapsers = 3, non-responders = 11). Peginterferon and ribavirin combination treatment was started after cytapheresis. During combination treatment, the proliferative response of peripheral blood mononuclear cells to HCV proteins (core, NS3, NS4, and NS5), tetanus toxoid, and phytohemagglutinin was measured, and compared to the early virological response. After treatment by leucocytapheresis, the proliferative response of peripheral blood mononuclear cells to HCV-core and tetanus toxoid increased significantly over the baseline (P < 0.05). A marked increase in the phytohemagglutinin response was observed after peginterferon and ribavirin combination treatment was started (P < 0.01 at week 5 and P < 0.005 at week 13). There were, however, no clear changes in the proliferative response to other antigens. Among the 14 patients, 12 (85.7%) achieved an early virological response by week 13 (12 weeks after the start of combination treatment). After treatment, nine patients (64.3%) had a significant proliferative response to HCV core antigen. Among the nine patients, eight patients (88.9%) achieved early virological response. The results indicate that activation of cellular immunity by leucocytapheresis facilitates an early virological response rate in HCV patients. This new therapy may, therefore, become an additional therapeutic measure for HCV.
(c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.