Aim: To evaluate the effects of fucoidan, a complex sulfated polysaccharide extract from marine seaweed, on hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA load both in vitro and in vivo.
Methods: HCV-1b replicon-expressing cells were cultured in the presence of fucoidan obtained from Cladosiphon okamuranus Tokida cultivated in Okinawa, Japan, and quantified the level of HCV replication. In an open-label uncontrolled study, 15 patients with chronic hepatitis C, and HCV-related cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma were treated with fucoidan (0.83 g/d) for 12 mo. The clinical symptoms, biochemical tests, and HCV RNA levels were assessed before, during, and after treatment.
Results: Fucoidan dose-dependently inhibited the expression of HCV replicon. At 8-10 mo of treatment with fucoidan, HCV RNA levels were significantly lower relative to the baseline. The same treatment also tended to lower serum alanine aminotransferase levels, and the latter correlated with HCV RNA levels. However, the improved laboratory tests did not translate into significant clinical improvement. Fucoidan had no serious adverse effects.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that fucoidan is safe and useful in the treatment of patients with HCV-related chronic liver diseases. Further controlled clinical trials are needed to confirm the present findings.
Keywords: Fucoidan; Hepatitis C virus; Replicon.