Hepatitis C virus kinetics

Eva Herrmann, Avidan U. Neumann, Jürgen M. Schmidt, Stefan Zeuzem

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


The balance of virus production and clearance for untreated patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) results in a decline of viraemia when initiating active antiviral treatment. During the first phase of interferon-a therapy, after a delay of about 8-9 h, the kinetics of the viral load is characterized by a rapid dose-dependent decline. This early response can be observed for almost all patients treated with interferon-α. After about 24-48 h, the viral decline enters a second phase of relatively slow exponential decay during the following weeks of therapy. Non-responding patients, however, show constant viraemia or even a rebound during this second phase. The rate of the exponential decline of the viral load in responding patients in this second phase is less sensitive to the dose of interferon-α and varies considerably among patients. Furthermore, combination therapy with interferon-α plus ribavirin does not significantly improve the initial viral decay, although it may prevent more patients from rebounding. Mathematical modelling of viral dynamics reveals high turnover rates of pre-treatment viral production and clearance, and permits the estimation of in vivo half-lives of a few hours for free HCV virions and of 1-70 days for productively infected cells. Infected cell death rate, which determines the second phase decline slope, is predictive of response to treatment. Current models indicate that the early biphasic viral decline is explained if interferon-α partially blocks virion production from infected cells, yet they do not rule out additional antiviral or immunological effects. Therapeutic implications are the advisability of use of frequent (daily) and comparatively high initial doses. In conclusion, kinetic analysis of the viral decay during the first weeks of treatment permits the prediction of response at the end-of-therapy and might help to evaluate new drugs and to optimize therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-90
Number of pages6
JournalAntiviral Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2000


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