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The State University of Medicine and Pharmacy Nicolae Testemitanu

Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology

Adela Turcanu
PhD, Associate professor
Chronic viral hepatitis C is defined as necroinflammatory
disease of the liver caused by persistent infection (>6
with hepatitis C virus.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is one of the main causes of chronic liver
disease worldwide. The long-term impact of HCV infection is highly
variable, ranging from minimal histological changes to extensive fibrosis
and cirrhosis with or without HCC.

EASL Clinical Practice Guidelines. Management of hepatitis C virus infection. J Hepatol 2016; vol.60:392420
Epidemiology of hepatitis C
- low (< 2.5%) in North
America, Europe, Australia and
Far East,
- intermediate (2.5% to 10%)
in some Mediterranean
countries, South America,
Africa and Middle East,
- high (>10%) prevalence
areas in Egypt, Burundi,
Gabon, Cameroon, Rwanda,
Guinea, Bolivia, Mongolia with
an steady North-South
increasing trend.

130210 million individuals, i.e. 3% of the world population, are chronically

infected with HCV
Epidemiology of hepatitis C
WHO estimates that in 2015, 71 million persons
were living with HCV infection in the world,
accounting for 1% of the population.
2.3 million persons living with HIV also had HCV
HCV infection is unevenly distributed in the world.
The European and Eastern Mediterranean regions
are more affected, but there are variations in
prevalence across and within countries.


The routes of transmission hepatitis C

Determined in more than half of the patients, the parenteral route is the major
transmission route of HCV infection. However, in 30-40% of the infected patients,
other transmission routes, such as sexual intercourse, interfamilial contact or
maternal-infant transmission, have also been reported.
Parenteral exposure to HCV
Parenteral esposure to HCV is the most efficient means of
The folowing possible routes of infection have been identified in HCV
pozitive blood donors:
o Injection drug use
o Blood transfusion
o Religious scarification
o Having been struck or cut with a bloody object
o Piercing
o Sex with a person who injects drugs
Unsafe health-care practices (including unsafe healthcare injections) and injection drug
use remain the leading modes of transmission. Areas with high rates of infection are
located in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (62.5 per 100 000) and the European
Region (61.8 per 100 000). In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, the most common
cause of transmission of infection is unsafe health-care injections. In the European
Region, injection drug use accounts for a substantial proportion of new infections.
Parenteral route of tansmission
Non-intravenous recreational drug exposure. Increasing
evidence is accumulating that HCV may also cross the nasal
mucosa and infect subjects chronically using inhalatory
recreational drugs, such as cocaine, by the sharing of
inhalatory instrumentation, favored by the frequent
bleeding of the nasal mucosa occurring in these individuals
Accidental exposure. The risk of HCV infection after
accidental needle stick exposure has been reported to
range between 0.2% to 10%, depending on various factors
including hollow-bore needles, percutaneous exposure, high
HCV viral load or HIV co-infection of the index case .
Healthcare procedures. Exposure to unsafe healthcare
practice, including hemodyalisis, has been reported to be
one of the most important risk factors associated with HCV
infection, even in western countries .
Hepatitis C Virus Transmission
to Healthcare Workers
Occupational exposure via skin injury potentially causes up
to 16,000 new cases of HCV annually
Nurses experience the highest exposure rates, followed by
medical residents
Fatigue and deviations from infection control practices
are contributing factors
The average rate of seroconversion after an occupational
exposure to HCV-infected blood through accidental
needlestick is 1.8%
Eye-splash injuries are relatively common among dental care
workers and surgeons, although they are frequently
Pruss-Ustun A, Rapiti E, Hutin Y.Estimation of the global burden of disease attribuitable to contaminated sharps injuries
among health-care workers. Am J Ind Med. 2005 Dec;48(6):482-90
Sexual or household transmission
routes of HCV
HCV transmission by sexual contact is uncommoon
between heterosexual couples
But sexual transmission is possible particullary where
sexual practices associated with traumas are combined
with stimulants (such as methamphetamine,
mephendrone) beyng injected in a sexual context.
Factors that may increase the risk of HCV include multiple
sex parteners, history of sexulay transmited diseases,
sexual practices associated with higher risk of trauma and
bleeding and not using a condom.
Patients with acute or chronic HCV should be advised that
transmission to sexual contacts is possible.

EASL Clinical Practice Guidelines. Management of hepatitis C virus infection. J Hepatol 2014; vol.60:392420
Perinatal transmission
The rate of HCV transmission from mother to child is 5% among
women who are HCV RNA positive, increasing to 22.1% when the
mother is coinfected with HIV.
Due the passive transfer of anti-HCV antibodies, a firm diagnosis
of perinatal transmission should be based on 2 subsequent
determinations of serum HCV RNA and/or anti-HCV positivity in
infants at or beyond 18 months of age.
Several factors are associated with risk of perinatal transmission
of HCV include:
Higher maternal HCV RNA level
Coinfection with HIV
Longer labor
Caesarian section has not been shown to reduce the transmission
The people with risk for HCV infection
Current or former injection drug users, including those who
injected only once many years ago
Recipients of clotting factor concentrates made before 1987,
when more advanced methods for manufacturing those
products were developed
Recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants
before July 1992, when better testing of blood donors became
Chronic hemodialysis patients
People with known exposures to HCV, such as
health care workers after needle sticks involving HCV-
positive blood
recipients of blood or organs from a donor who tested
People with HIV infection
Children born to HCV-positive mothers
Structure of hepatic virus C
HCV is the sole member of the genus
Hepacivirus that belongs to the
Flaviridae family.

The HCV genome is a single-stranded

positive-sense RNA molecule of
approx. 9600 bases length.
HCV circulates in various forms in the
serum of an infected host, including:
virions bound to verylow-density
lipoproteins and low-density
lipoproteins, which appear to
represent the infectious fraction;
virions bound to immunoglobulins;
free virions.

The structural proteins include the core (C), which forms the viral nucleocapsid, and the
envelope glycoproteins E1 and E2. They are released by host-cell signal peptidases.
The nonstructural (NS) proteins NS2 to NS5B are involved in polyprotein processing and viral
Francois Penin, Jean Dubuisson et al. Structural biology of hepatitis C virus J Hepatology, 2004
Replication of VHC Hepatitis C virus (HCV) entry is the first step of
interactions between virus and the target cell
that is required for initiation of infection.
The virus linked to its receptor complex,
internalize and then nucleocapsid is released
into the cytoplasm. The virus is decapsidated,
and the genomic HCV RNA is used both for
polyprotein translation and replication in the
Because HCV tends to circulate in relatively
low titer, 1000 - 10 virions/mL, visualization
of virus particles, estimated to be 4060 nm
in diameter, remains difficult. Still, the
replication rate of HCV is very high, 10 trlions
virions per day; its half-life is 2.7 hours.
HCV does not replicate via a DNA
intermediate, it does not integrate into the
host genome.

An overview of HCV molecular biology, replication and immune responses.

Usman A Ashfaq, Tariq Javed, Sidra Rehman J Virology 2011, 8;161
D. Clausznitzer, N. Sulaimanov, M. Binder, V. Lohmann, R. Bartenschlager, L. Kaderali , 2011. Systembiologie der
Hepatitis C-Virus-Wirts-Interaktionen. Laborwelt 6:13-15
Genotypes from HCV
G1is the most prevalent genotype
worldwide. G1a is the prevalent type in
G7 was identified in
1 the USA and G1b in Europe, Asia.
patients from Canada
and Belgium, possibly 7 2
infected in Central Africa.
G2 and G3 are found with
G6 is rare, identified Seven main significant prevalence in many
countries in North and South
predominant in Asia HCV America, Europe and Asia.
(except China).
6 genotypes 3
G4 accounts for around 90% of HCV
G5 is the most prevalent
infections in Egypt and other 10-20%
genotype in Africa (40%). G5 is
emerging in small pockets in 5 4
-in worldwide.
Syria, Europe.
All currently recognized HCV genotypes are hepatotropic and pathogenic.
However, it has been suggested that different genotypes do vary in their infectivity and
pathogenicity, thereby influencing the rate of progression to cirrhosis and the risk of HCC.
Jane P. Messina Global distribution of hepatitis C virus genotypes, Hepatology, vol.61, issue 1, 2014
Hepatitis C virus prevalence and genotype
distribution in Europe and Israel
Natural history of infection with vhc
After an incubation period of 312
weeks HCV infection is usually
followed by a clinically inapparent
hepatitis. 25% of patients are
Fulminant hepatitis is very

Not all chronically infected people will

develop liver damage; if liver damage
does develop, it may take from 10 to
50 years to do so. No clinical, serologic,
or virologic feature can reliably forecast
the outcome of untreated HCV infection,
although some prognostic factors have
Typically, patients with been identified.
chronic hepatitis C have few
if any symptoms and these
are usually nonspecific, Overall, 220% of patients with
intermittent, and mild. chronic hepatitis C will develop liver
cirrhosis within 20 years.
Cofactors for fibrosis progression

- Tobacco smoking
may increase
inflammation and
accelerate fibrosis.
- Daily cannabis use
has been associated
with more advanced
liver fibrosis.
- Coffee consumption
is associated with
lower inflammatory
activity, less advanced
and reduced risk of
developing HCC.

IR - insulinorezistance
Clinical manifestations
Most people with chronic HCV infections remain asymptomatic for years, although
some individuals will experience fatigue, depression, and other extrahepatic
manifestations of HCV infection.
hepatitis C

Symptomatic Asymptomatic
30% 70%

Hepatic Extrahepatic
syndromes manifestation

neurasthenic syndrome (fatigue, depression); Reumathological manifestation

pain syndrome (abdominal, muscul. pain) Dermatological and ocular disorder
dyspeptic syndrome Endocrine and renal syndromes
icteric sindrome Hemathological and vascular disord.
Autoimmune disorder
Extrahepatic Manifestations
Associated With Hepatitis C Virus
Patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection are at
risk of a variety of extrahepatic manifestations (EHM) up to
70% of patients develop.
EHMs may often be the first and only clinical sign of chronic
hepatitis C infection.
Evidence of HCV infection should always be ruled out in cases
of non-specific chronic fatigue and/or rheumatic,
rematological, endocrine or dermatological disorders.
The pathogenesis of EHM is still not fully understood although
most studies suggest that the HCV lymphotropism, molecular
mimicry and autoimmune phenomena constitute the major
pathogenic factors.
Sene D, Limal N, Cacoub P. Hepatitis C virus-associated extrahepatic manifestation: a review.Metab Brain Dis. 2004
White DL, Ratziu V, El-Serag HB. Hepatitis C infection and risk of diabetes: a sistematic review and meta-analysis. J
Hepatol. 2008 Nov;49(5):831-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2008.08.006. Epub 2008 Aug 21.
Extrahepatic manifestations
Diagnosis for chronic hepatitis C
Initial evaluation of patients with HCV- Laboratory studies
Medical history: General laboratory evaluation
Identifying risk factors for HCV Biochimical syndromes:
acquisition Cytolitical
Alchol history (use AUDIT, CAGE Cholestatic
questionnaire) Hepatoprive
Injection drug use history Immuno-inflamathory
Physical examination: Serological markers
Hepatic and extra hepatic signs Antibodies anti HCV type: IgG, IgM
Complications of HCV HCV RNA level
HCV genotype
IL-28B testing
Serological markers in HCV
Screening tests are tests that are used to diagnose a condition or disease among
individuals not known to have the disease. They are is particularly useful for
individuals who have risk factors for the condition or disease.
The first step in screening for HCV Recombinant immunoblot
infection is to test blood for the antibody to assay (RIBA) is used to confirm the
HCV using an enzyme immuno-assays positive results of EIAs since
(EIAs). occasionally a positive EIA is a false
If the EIA test is negative (does not find positive, that is, the test is positive
the antibody), the patient is assumed to be when HCV is not present. Although
free of HCV. It takes several weeks (up to the direct detection of HCV RNA
six months) for antibodies to develop after (HCV PCR) also is widely used to
the initial infection with HCV, so this confirm the HCV infection, RIBA is
screening test may miss a few newly- still useful to differentiate false
infected individuals. positive results in the few individuals
The EIA screening tests are very good whose immune systems have
(specific); if the test is positive the eliminated the virus but still have
probability of having HCV infection is antibodies left over from the resolved
greater than 99%. infection.
Recommendations for HCV testing
Anti-HCV antibodies are the first line diagnostic test for HCV
In the case of suspected acute hepatitis C or in
immunocompromised patients, HCV RNA testing should be part of
the initial evaluation
If anti-HCV antibodies are detected, HCV RNA should be
determined by a sensitive molecular method
Anti-HCV positive, HCV RNA negative individuals should be retested
for HCV RNA 3 months later to confirm a recovered infection

False-positive results are more frequent in patients with rheumatoid factors and in populations
with a low hepatitis C prevalence, i.e., in blood and organ donors.
False-negative HCV antibody testing may occur in patients on hemodialysis or in severely
immunosuppressed patients like in HIV infection or in hematological malignancies
Recomandations for testing
Testing for serum HCV RNA is essential for confirming ongoing HCV
infection in individuals with a positive HCV antibody test and
determining proper hepatitis C therapy.
HCV RNA testing or follow-up anti-HCV testing for patients with a
negative HCV antibody test result:
if they are suspected of having liver disease and were exposed to
HCV during the previous 6 months;
if they are immunocompromised (hemodialysis, HIV infection, or
another form of immunosuppression).
Many years after disease resolution, anti-HCV antibodies may
become undetectable on commercial assays in some patients.

Recommendations for Testing, Managing, and Treating Hepatitis C

American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and Infectious Diseases Society of America 12/19/14
Serological markers in hcv
HCV RNA testing is more sensitive (that is, will detect more cases) than the
conventional EIA testing in this setting. The reason for this greater sensitivity is that
it may take a person several weeks after exposure to HCV to develop the
antibodies, whereas HCV RNA becomes detectable one to three weeks after
A single negative test for RNA does not mean that there is no infection because the
virus may appear in the blood intermittently or may exist in small amounts.
Assessment the stage of Fibrosis in hcv
Liver biopsy: Noninvasive markers:
can provide information on current APRI, FIB4
status of liver injury and help guide FibroSure, FibroTest (utilizes a proprietary
therapeutic hepatitis C management algorithm that includes patient age and
decisions; gender along with a composite of six
can characterize features useful in biochemical markers associated with
diagnosing and treating co-existing liver hepatic fibrosis: alpha-2-macroglobulin,
diseases; haptoglobulin, GGT, apolipoprotein A1,
can help reveal advanced total bilirubin, and ALT)
fibrosis/cirrhosis that would Elastography (Fiboscan) The test is
necessitate routine cancer surveillance performed using an ultrasound transducer
probe that is mounted on the axis of a
vibrator. Vibration is transmitted toward
hepatic tissue, the vibrations are followed
by pulse echo, and their velocities are
measured which correlates directly with
liver stiffness.
Hepatic ultrasound
Scoring systems for histologic
grade in liver disease

The main determinants of inflammatory activity are lymphocytic piecemeal necrosis, lobular
necroinflammation, portal inflammation, which are graded 0 to 4 in most classification systems.
The main determinants of fibrosis are the length in expansion of fibrotic areas between portal tr
and these changes are staged 0 to 4 in the classification systems used in clinical practice
Liver biopsy in chronic hepatitis c

In chronic HCV can see centrilobular Hepatitis C typically has distinctly

cholestasis causing feathery degeneration nodular lymphocytic aggregates in
of hepatocytes (long arrow). In addition, portal areas
there are foci of parenchymal necrosis
including acidophilic bodies
Therapy of chronic hepatitis C
The goal of antiviral therapy is to cure hepatitis C via a sustained elimination of
the virus.
A sustained elimination of HCV is achieved if the HCV RNA remains negative six
months after the end of treatment (sustained virologic response)

Indications from antiviral therapy:

HCV RNA positive in serum,
Liver biopsy showing chronic hepatitis with significant fibrosis (bridging fibrosis
or higher),
Compensated liver disease (total serum bilirubin <1.5 g/dL; INR 1.5; serum
albumin > 3.4, platelet count 75,000/mm3 and no evidence of hepatic
decompensation [hepatic encephalopathy or ascites]),
Acceptable hematological and biochemical indices (hemoglobin 13 g/dL for
men and 12 g/dL for women; neutrophil count 1500 /mm3 and serum
creatinine >1.5 mg/dL,
Willing to be treated and to adhere to treatment requirements,
No contraindications.
Relevant definitions for IFN free HCV
Strategies of antiviral therapies in HCV

HCV treatment include post-2013-future

both interferon-based and IFN- free regimens SVR rate 90-

interferon-free regimens (Peg)IFN+Ribavirin+DAAs 100% for all
all genotypes
Rare side
Selection of the treatment effects.
regimens will be 2011-2014
influenced by genotypes PegIFN alfa + Ribavirin + SVR rate 63-
of HCV, potency, genetic Boceprevir (or Telaprevir) 75% for G1;
barrier, dosing regimens genotype 1 Side events
and adverse profiles. High cost

(PEG)Interferon alfa2 + SVR rate only
Ribavirin 40% for G1;
all genotypes
Multiple adverse
High cost
Direct-acting antiviral agents (daa)
High potency Intermediate potency
Multi-genotypic Pan-genotypic coverage
coverage High barrier to resistance
Intermediate to high
barrier to resistance
Protease Nucleoside
Boceprevir Inhibitors Sofosbuvir
Telaprevir Mericitabine
Asunaprevir IDX-184
Danoprevir NS5B
NS5A Non-
Inhibitors nucleoside
High potency inhibitors Intermediate potency
Multigenotypic coverage Low-genotypic coverage
Low to intermediate barrier Low barrier to rezistance
to resistance
Daclatasvir The combination of: Setrobuvir
Ledipasvir ritonavir-boosted paritaprevir (paritaprevir/r, Tegobuvir
ABT-267 ombitasvir and dasabuvir BI-207127
PPI-678 etc SOF-ledipasvir (LDV) fixed-dose combination ABT-333 etc
Avaible daa (approved by ema)
DAAs Same aspects
Sofosbuvir (SOF) Dose: 400 mg/ 1 tab. per day
Duration: 12-24 weeks
Adverse events:
SOF + Ribavirin > 20%: fatigue, headache
SOF + PegIFN > 20%: fatigue, headache, nausea,
insomnia, anemia
Simeprevir (SIM) Dose: 150 mg/ 1 caps. per day
Duration: 12-24 weeks
Adverse events:
SIM +PegIFN+ Ribavirin - 3%: rash, photosensitivity,
pruritus, nausea
Can be hyperbilirubinemia in 10% (SIM is inhibitor of the
transporters OATP1B1 and MRP2.
Daclatasvir (DAC) Dose: 60 mg/ 1 tab. per day
Duration: 12-24 weeks
Adverse events: fatigue, headache, nausea.
Dose adjustments are not needed in patients with Child
B or C disease.
DAA treatment in HCV
Primary Prevention Strategies
Primary prevention activities can reduce or eliminate
potential risk for HCV transmission from
a) blood, blood components, and plasma derivatives;
b) such high-risk activities as injecting-drug use and sex
with multiple partners; and
c) percutaneous exposures to blood in health care and
other (i.e., tattooing and body piercing) settings.
Immunization against HCV is not available; therefore,
identifying persons at risk but not infected with HCV provides
opportunity for counseling on how to reduce their risk for
becoming infected.
HCV can survive on environmental surfaces at room temperature for at least 16 hours
but not longer than 4 days.
CDC. Recommendations for prevention and control of hepatitis C virus infection and HCV related chronic diseases. MMWR, October
16, 1998, vol 47, No RR-19
Secondary prevention
Secondary prevention activities can reduce risks for
chronic disease by identifying HCV-infected people
through diagnostic testing and by providing appropriate
medical management and antiviral therapy.
Identification of persons at risk for HCV infection
provides opportunity for testing to determine their
infection status, medical evaluation to determine their
disease status if infected, and antiviral therapy, if
Identification also provides infected people opportunity
to obtain information concerning how they can prevent
further harm to their liver and prevent transmitting HCV
to others.
Secondary prevention
Individual institutions should establish policies and procedures for HCV
testing of persons after percutaneous or permucosal exposures to
blood and ensure that all personnel are familiar with these policies
and procedures
Postexposure follow-up of health-care, emergency medical, and public
safety workers for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection:
For the source, baseline testing for anti-HCV.
For the person exposed to an HCV-positive source, baseline and
follow-up testing including
baseline testing for anti-HCV and ALT activity; and
follow-up testing for anti-HCV (e.g., at 46 months) and ALT
activity. (If earlier diagnosis of HCV infection is desired, testing
for HCV RNA may be performed at 46 weeks.)
Confirmation by supplemental anti-HCV testing of all anti-HCV
results reported as positive by enzyme immunoassay.
CDC. Recommendations for follow-up of health-care workers after occupational exposure to
hepatitis C virus [Notice to Readers]. MMWR 1997;46:6036