Immune system remains damaged despite cured hepatitis C infection

Immune system remains damaged despite cured hepatitis C infection

The immune system remains changed for many years, even after a hepatitis C infection heals, according to a new study by Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, and Hannover Medical School, Germany.

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) poses a major health problem globally and, when the immune system fails to fight the virus, can lead to cirrhosis and cancer of the liver. This results in the immune system becoming exhausted.

However, over recent years, most patients with hepatitis C can now be cured of the virus in just a few weeks thanks to revolutionary new medications.

How infections impact the immune system

This study comprised 40 patients with chronic HCV of whom researchers followed before, during and after treatment with the new medications in a bid to investigate impact on the composition and diversity of the immune system.

In order for the immune system to have the ability to fight infections, diversity is vital. Particularly important are natural killer cells (NK), which is a type of white blood cells.

The researchers used flow cytometry and a new measurement method to derive the composition of the immune system, as well as the appearance of NK cells and their function in the blood.

Analysing the immune system’s complexity

Lead on the study, Niklas Björkström, physician and associate professor at the Department of Medicine, Huddinge, Karolinska Institute, said: “Researchers in the field previously focused on analysing individual components but were unable to draw any comprehensive conclusion.

“The immune system is extraordinarily complex, incorporating a large number of interacting parts. We adapted new methods in order to assess and analyse that complexity in a fresh manner.”

It was found that the overall composition of the body’s defence system was affected by the chronic infection, with significantly reduced diversity among the NK cells. Changes remained long after eradication of the virus.

What are the long-term prospects?

Researchers have not yet determined the long-term implications but are currently exploring whether patients have a harder time fighting future infection.

Benedikt Strunz, physician and doctoral student at the same department, added: “One strength of our study is that we monitored patients for more than two years following elimination of the virus.

“To the best of our knowledge, nobody has ever monitored over such a long term like this before.”

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  1. I took Epclusa l yr ago ,got rid of virus ,I’m 66yrs old I’m bit worried that doing the treatment may have weakened my immune system ,which could effect me with the coronaviris,I already have asthma plus few other problems since doing Epclusa..thank you.

    • I just finished my treatment with Mavyret. I alao have asthma. I havent officially been told I am cured but I am optimistic. But like you, i too am worrried about my immune system. Leta pray and follow all the CDC suggestions and qith that I am hoping we can stay out of the Coronavirus’ path. Also I am a grocery store worker and have to wirk with the public.

    • Hi I’m about to begin treatment for hep c 1A. How did you do on the meds? Do you have any input for me? I am a little bit nervous. I suffered from liver failure 9 years ago and recovered but I have fibrosis and also was diagnosed with non alcoholic fatty liver disease…. Did you have any side effects? Was there anything that helped you during treatment?

  2. Hi David I’m worried as well I too have taken epclusa and I am worried that my immune system is compromised making me vulnerable to the coronavirus

  3. I have recently finished treatment with epclusa and have to still be officially cleared and am worried as my I have definitely noticed that since I’ve finished the treatment my immune system has been worse and have already been quite ill 🤔

  4. I am supposed to start Epclusa today and am concerned. I’ve had it probably for 9 years genotype 3a. I need to do the treatment because my hep c is aggressive. My enzymes are over a million. Is the treatment worth it?

  5. I was diagnosed in 2015 with Hep C genotype 1A.. No prior liver damage or problems.. I took Viekira Pak along with Ribavirin for 12 weeks.. I would think everyone’s experience with the treatment will vary, depending on which drugs they’re using for treatment, their overall health & lifestyle.. But MY experience, it was hard I was weak, I was nauseous, I was constipated, I lost my appetite but I had to eat to take the medication.. Now was it worth it, ABSOLUTELY!!! I remain as of today “Non Virus Detected” & feel GREAT!! C. Adams

  6. I treated with harvoni in 2016 and now I have liver cancer. I’m wondering can I take immune boosting herbs and mushrooms or is my immune system already on overdrive?

  7. I had hep c in 2016 and was given treatment at the VA…. in 12 weeks I completely cured… I had other treatments before in trial studies for the virus but didn’t clear… I feel my immune system was strengthen and given a boost…. haven’t had a cold flu since…. hopefully it’ll continue to fight off viruses.

  8. I did a clinical trial for hep C about 4 years ago. I had had it for about 15 years but 0 damage. I never get sick so I have to believe that after that amount of time my immune system has either recovered or was never damaged in the first place.


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