Background: High baseline levels of IP-10 predict a slower first phase decline in HCV RNA and a poor outcome following interferon/ribavirin therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C. Several recent studies report that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) adjacent to IL28B predict spontaneous resolution of HCV infection and outcome of treatment among HCV genotype 1 infected patients.
Methods and findings: In the present study, we correlated the occurrence of variants at three such SNPs (rs12979860, rs12980275, and rs8099917) with pretreatment plasma IP-10 and HCV RNA throughout therapy within a phase III treatment trial (HCV-DITTO) involving 253 Caucasian patients. The favorable SNP variants (CC, AA, and TT, respectively) were associated with lower baseline IP-10 (P = 0.02, P = 0.01, P = 0.04) and were less common among HCV genotype 1 infected patients than genotype 2/3 (P<0.0001, P<0.0001, and P = 0.01). Patients carrying favorable SNP genotypes had higher baseline viral load than those carrying unfavorable variants (P = 0.0013, P = 0.029, P = 0.0004 respectively). Among HCV genotype 1 infected carriers of the favorable C, A, or T alleles, IP-10 below 150 pg/mL significantly predicted a more pronounced reduction of HCV RNA from day 0 to 4 (first phase decline), which translated into increased rates of RVR (62%, 53%, and 39%) and SVR (85%, 76%, and 75% respectively) among homozygous carriers with baseline IP-10 below 150 pg/mL. In multivariate analyses of genotype 1-infected patients, baseline IP-10 and C genotype at rs12979860 independently predicted the first phase viral decline and RVR, which in turn independently predicted SVR.
Conclusions: Concomitant assessment of pretreatment IP-10 and IL28B-related SNPs augments the prediction of the first phase decline in HCV RNA, RVR, and final therapeutic outcome.