Background/aims: Different variants of hepatitis C virus might show different susceptibility to interferon alpha treatment, but it is important to understand whether this difference in sensitivity reflects an association with other factors, such as cirrhosis or age.
Methods: We have used an enzyme-linked immunosorbent hepatitis C virus typing assay based upon the detection of antibody in patient's era to type-specific NS-4 antigens to investigate the effect of hepatitis C virus type in 610 patients with chronic hepatitis C virus infection. The influence of viral types and their interdependency with host factors were separately analyzed to establish which factors executed an independent effect on the probability of sustained response.
Results: There was a marked difference in the distribution of hepatitis C virus types with age: infection with type 3 was more common in younger patients. The distribution of hepatitis C virus type with age is accounted for by differences in risk-factors for infection in different age groups. The frequency of cirrhosis increased markedly with age. Even after standardization for age, center and the presence of cirrhosis, viral type was strongly related to the outcome of infection.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that enzyme-linked immunosorbent hepatitis C virus typing could assist in patient selection for interferon treatment to improve sustained response rates. Together with measurement of viral load, hepatitis C virus typing may serve to indicate the probability of response in patients with chronic hepatitis C, and to elucidate antiviral mechanisms in the disease. The serotyping assay provides a relatively inexpensive screening method to determine the infecting hepatitis C virus type, which could facilitate therapeutic decisions and strategies in patients with chronic hepatitis C.