Objective: Direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) inhibit hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection by targeting viral proteins that play essential roles in the replication process. However, selection of resistance-associated variants (RAVs) during DAA therapy has been a cause of therapeutic failure. In this study, we wished to address whether such RAVs could be controlled by the co-administration of host-targeting entry inhibitors that prevent intrahepatic viral spread.
Design: We investigated the effect of adding an entry inhibitor (the anti-scavenger receptor class B type I mAb1671) to a DAA monotherapy (the protease inhibitor ciluprevir) in human-liver mice chronically infected with HCV of genotype 1b. Clinically relevant non-laboratory strains were used to achieve viraemia consisting of a cloud of related viral variants (quasispecies) and the emergence of RAVs was monitored at high resolution using next-generation sequencing.
Results: HCV-infected human-liver mice receiving DAA monotherapy rapidly experienced on-therapy viral breakthrough. Deep sequencing of the HCV protease domain confirmed the manifestation of drug-resistant mutants upon viral rebound. In contrast, none of the mice treated with a combination of the DAA and the entry inhibitor experienced on-therapy viral breakthrough, despite detection of RAV emergence in some animals.
Conclusions: This study provides preclinical in vivo evidence that addition of an entry inhibitor to an anti-HCV DAA regimen restricts the breakthrough of DAA-resistant viruses. Our approach is an excellent strategy to prevent therapeutic failure caused by on-therapy rebound of DAA-RAVs. Inclusion of an entry inhibitor to the newest DAA combination therapies may further increase response rates, especially in difficult-to-treat patient populations.
Keywords: ANTIVIRAL THERAPY; CHRONIC VIRAL HEPATITIS; HCV; HEPATITIS C; LIVER.
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