Publications by authors named "Christoph Sarrazin"

269 Publications

Safety and Effectiveness Using 8 Weeks of Glecaprevir/Pibrentasvir in HCV-Infected Treatment-Naïve Patients with Compensated Cirrhosis: The CREST Study.

Adv Ther 2022 May 11. Epub 2022 May 11.

Navarra Institute for Health Research (IdiSNA), Pamplona, Spain.

Introduction: In clinical trials with hepatitis C virus-infected treatment-naïve (TN) patients with compensated cirrhosis (CC), glecaprevir/pibrentasvir (G/P), a fixed-dose, once-daily, pangenotypic regimen, has demonstrated sustained virologic response at posttreatment Week 12 (SVR12) > 95%. We evaluated the real-world safety and effectiveness of 8-week G/P therapy in TN patients with CC, including certain subgroups of interest.

Methods: The CREST study is a real-world, noninterventional, multicenter study retrospectively assessing data from Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, and Spain. The full analysis set (FAS) designated all patients in the study; the modified analysis set (MAS) excluded patients who discontinued G/P for nonvirologic failure or who had missing SVR12 data. The primary endpoint was SVR12; safety endpoints were also assessed.

Results: A total of 386 patients were included in the FAS, 375 patients completed the study, and 325 patients were included in the MAS; 51 patients had missing SVR12 data. Overall, in the MAS and FAS, SVR12 was achieved in 99.1% and 84.2% of patients, respectively. In subgroups of interest, the percentage of patients achieving SVR12 in the MAS (and FAS) was: genotype (GT)3: 97.5% (80.6%); FibroScan ≥ 12.5 kPa: 98.9% (89.3%); platelet count < 100 × 10/l: 100% (88.2%); both platelets < 150 × 10/l and FibroScan > 20 kPa: 100% (88.9%); aspartate aminotransferase-to-platelet ratio index > 1.09: 98.7% (83.1%); fibrosis-4 index > 3.25: 98.6% (84.0%); albumin < 3 g/dl: 100% (91.7%); people who use drugs: 97.7% (84.3%); psychiatric disorders: 96.6% (84.8%); and human immunodeficiency virus coinfection: 100% (95.0%). Overall, 26.9% (104/386) of patients experienced an adverse event, none of which were classed as serious.

Conclusion: In this real-world cohort, 8 weeks of G/P therapy was well tolerated in TN patients with CC. SVR12 rates were similar to clinical trials, supporting 8-week treatment in TN patients with CC, including those with signs of advanced liver disease and GT3 infection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12325-022-02158-6DOI Listing
May 2022

Characteristics of hepatitis C virus resistance in an international cohort after a decade of direct-acting antivirals.

JHEP Rep 2022 May 24;4(5):100462. Epub 2022 Feb 24.

CIBER de Enfermedades Infecciosas (CIBERINFEC), Hospital Universitario Clinico San Cecilio, Instituto de Investigacion Ibs.Granada, Granada, Spain.

Background & Aims: Direct-acting antiviral (DAA) regimens provide a cure in >95% of patients with chronic HCV infection. However, in some patients in whom therapy fails, resistance-associated substitutions (RASs) can develop, limiting retreatment options and risking onward resistant virus transmission. In this study, we evaluated RAS prevalence and distribution, including novel NS5A RASs and clinical factors associated with RAS selection, among patients who experienced DAA treatment failure.

Methods: SHARED is an international consortium of clinicians and scientists studying HCV drug resistance. HCV sequence linked metadata from 3,355 patients were collected from 22 countries. NS3, NS5A, and NS5B RASs in virologic failures, including novel NS5A substitutions, were examined. Associations of clinical and demographic characteristics with RAS selection were investigated.

Results: The frequency of RASs increased from its natural prevalence following DAA exposure: 37% to 60% in NS3, 29% to 80% in NS5A, 15% to 22% in NS5B for sofosbuvir, and 24% to 37% in NS5B for dasabuvir. Among 730 virologic failures, most were treated with first-generation DAAs, 94% had drug resistance in ≥1 DAA class: 31% single-class resistance, 42% dual-class resistance (predominantly against protease and NS5A inhibitors), and 21% triple-class resistance. Distinct patterns containing ≥2 highly resistant RASs were common. New potential NS5A RASs and adaptive changes were identified in genotypes 1a, 3, and 4. Following DAA failure, RAS selection was more frequent in older people with cirrhosis and those infected with genotypes 1b and 4.

Conclusions: Drug resistance in HCV is frequent after DAA treatment failure. Previously unrecognized substitutions continue to emerge and remain uncharacterized.

Lay Summary: Although direct-acting antiviral medications effectively cure hepatitis C in most patients, sometimes treatment selects for resistant viruses, causing antiviral drugs to be either ineffective or only partially effective. Multidrug resistance is common in patients for whom DAA treatment fails. Older patients and patients with advanced liver diseases are more likely to select drug-resistant viruses. Collective efforts from international communities and governments are needed to develop an optimal approach to managing drug resistance and preventing the transmission of resistant viruses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhepr.2022.100462DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9010635PMC
May 2022

Efficacy and Safety of ELOM-080 as Add-On Therapy in COVID-19 Patients with Acute Respiratory Insufficiency: Exploratory Data from the Prospective Placebo-Controlled COVARI Trial.

Adv Ther 2022 Jun 13;39(6):3011-3018. Epub 2022 Apr 13.

Section on Pneumology, Department of Internal Medicine I, University Hospital Halle, Halle (Saale), Germany.

Introduction: Enhancement of mucociliary clearance (MCC) might be a potential target in treating COVID-19. The phytomedicine ELOM-080 is an MCC enhancer that is used to treat inflammatory respiratory diseases.

Patients/methods: This randomised, double-blind exploratory study (EudraCT number 2020-003779-17) evaluated 14 days' add-on therapy with ELOM-080 versus placebo in patients with COVID-19 hospitalised with acute respiratory insufficiency.

Results: The trial was terminated early after enrolment of 47 patients as a result of poor recruitment. Twelve patients discontinued prematurely, leaving 35 in the per-protocol set (PPS). Treatment with ELOM-080 had no significant effect on overall clinical status versus placebo (p = 0.49). However, compared with the placebo group, patients treated with ELOM-080 had less dyspnoea in the second week of hospitalisation (p = 0.0035), required less supplemental oxygen (p = 0.0229), and were more often without dyspnoea when climbing stairs at home (p < 0.0001).

Conclusion: These exploratory data suggest the potential for ELOM-080 to improve respiratory status during and after hospitalisation in patients with COVID-19.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12325-022-02135-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9007397PMC
June 2022

Updated epidemiology of hepatitis C virus infections and implications for hepatitis C virus elimination in Germany.

J Viral Hepat 2022 Mar 31. Epub 2022 Mar 31.

Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.

In 2014, an analysis was conducted to evaluate the hepatitis C virus (HCV) epidemiology and disease burden in Germany. Since then, there have been considerable developments in HCV management such as the implementation of direct acting antivirals. The aim of this analysis was to assess the recent data available for Germany, establish an updated 2020 HCV prevalence and cascade of care and evaluate the impact of what-if scenarios on the future burden of disease using modelling analysis. A dynamic Markov model was used to forecast the HCV disease burden in Germany. Model inputs were retrieved through literature review, unpublished sources and expert input. Next, three "what-if" scenarios were developed to evaluate the status quo, COVID-19 pandemic, and steps needed to achieve the WHO targets for elimination. At the beginning of 2020, there were 189,000 (95% UI: 76,700-295,000) viremic infections in Germany, a decline of more than 85,000 viremic infections since 2012. Annual treatment starts went down since 2015. Compared with 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a further 11% decline in 2020. If this continues for two years, it could result in 110 excess HCC cases and 200 excess liver related deaths by 2030. To achieve the WHO targets, 81,200 people need to be diagnosed, with 118,600 initiated on treatment by 2030. This could also avert 1,020 deaths and 720 HCC cases between 2021 and 2030. Germany has made strides towards HCV elimination, but more efforts are needed to achieve the WHO targets by 2030.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jvh.13680DOI Listing
March 2022

[Treatment of parenterally transmittable viral hepatitis].

Internist (Berl) 2022 Apr 18;63(4):388-396. Epub 2022 Mar 18.

Medizinische Klinik II, St. Josefs-Hospital Wiesbaden, Beethovenstr. 20, 65189, Wiesbaden, Deutschland.

The parenterally transmittable hepatitides B, D and C and their complications are a problem worldwide and also in Germany that should not be underestimated. Due to the estimated high gray area, a broad distribution, particularly by drug abuse, increasing prevalence due to immigration and a pandemic-related delay in the diagnostics, the identification of affected persons and therefore potentially infectious patients represents a great challenge for the healthcare system. Highly effective treatment concepts with practically no side effects and a tablet ingestion once daily are available for hepatitis B and also hepatitis C. For hepatitis B this involves long-term treatment for suppression of replication, whereas for hepatitis C virus elimination occurs within a few weeks. A new treatment concept with inhibition of virus uptake for treatment of hepatitis D first became available in September 2020. For all patients a long-term further monitoring is necessary when advanced liver damage or even liver cirrhosis occurs, especially for the exclusion of liver cell carcinoma.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00108-022-01287-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8932089PMC
April 2022

Weight Gain after Interferon-Free Treatment of Chronic Hepatitis C-Results from the German Hepatitis C-Registry (DHC-R).

Biomedicines 2021 Oct 19;9(10). Epub 2021 Oct 19.

Leberstiftungs-GmbH Deutschland, 30625 Hannover, Germany.

Chronic hepatitis C can be treated very effectively with direct-acting antivirals (DAA) with only minor side effects compared to an interferon-containing treatment regimen. The significance of metabolic comorbidities after HCV cure is not well defined. This study aims to investigate short- and long-term weight change of patients receiving interferon-free antiviral treatment for chronic hepatitis C. The German Hepatitis C-registry (DHC-R) is a national multicenter real-world cohort. A total of 5111 patients were followed prospectively after DAA treatment for up to 3 years. Weight change compared to baseline was analyzed at end of treatment and at years 1, 2, and 3 after completion of antiviral therapy. Regression analysis was performed to identify baseline predictors for weight change. While there was no relevant mean weight change (-0.2 kg, SD 4.3 kg) at the end of antiviral treatment, weight started to increase during long-term follow-up reaching +1.7 kg (SD 8.0 kg, < 0.001) compared to baseline at 3 years (follow-up year 3, FU3) after completion of antiviral therapy. 48%, 31%, and 22% of patients had a weight gain greater than 1, 3, and 5 kg at FU3, respectively. During follow-up, a body mass index (BMI) <30 proved to be the only consistent predictor for weight gain. DAA treatment is followed by a substantial weight gain (+3 kg or more) in one-third of the patients during long-term follow-up. Non-obese patients seemed to be most vulnerable to weight gain. The body compartment involved in weight gain as well as the mechanism of weight gain remain to be elucidated.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/biomedicines9101495DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8533115PMC
October 2021

Granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) to treat acute-on-chronic liver failure: A multicenter randomized trial (GRAFT study).

J Hepatol 2021 12 5;75(6):1346-1354. Epub 2021 Aug 5.

Division of Hepatology, Department of Medicine II, Leipzig University Medical Center, Leipzig, Germany. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: Based on positive results from small single center studies, granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) is being widely used for the treatment of patients with acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF). Herein, we aimed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of G-CSF in patients with ACLF.

Methods: In this multicenter, prospective, controlled, open-label phase II study, 176 patients with ACLF (EASL-CLIF criteria) were randomized to receive G-CSF (5 μg/kg daily for the first 5 days and every third day thereafter until day 26) plus standard medical therapy (SMT) (n = 88) or SMT alone. The primary efficacy endpoint was 90-day transplant-free survival analyzed by Cox regression modeling. The key secondary endpoints were overall and transplant-free survival after 360 days, the development of ACLF-related complications, and the course of liver function scores during the entire observation period.

Results: Patients treated with G-CSF had a 90-day transplant-free survival rate of 34.1% compared to 37.5% in the SMT group (hazard ratio [HR] 1.05; 95% CI 0.711-1.551; p = 0.805). Transplant-free and overall survival at 360 days did not differ between the 2 arms (HR 0.998; 95% CI 0.697-1.430; p = 0.992 and HR 1.058; 95% CI 0.727-1.548; p = 0.768, respectively). G-CSF did not improve liver function scores, the occurrence of infections, or survival in subgroups of patients without infections, with alcohol-related ACLF, or with ACLF defined by the APASL criteria. Sixty-one serious adverse events were reported in the G-CSF+SMT group and 57 were reported in the SMT group. In total, 7 drug-related serious adverse reactions occurred in the G-CSF group. The study was prematurely terminated due to futility after conditional power calculation.

Conclusions: In contrast to previous findings, G-CSF had no significant beneficial effect on patients with ACLF in this multicenter controlled trial, which suggests that it should not be used as a standard treatment for ACLF. CLINICALTRIALS.

Gov Number: NCT02669680 LAY SUMMARY: Granulocyte-colony stimulating factor was considered as a novel treatment for acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF). We performed the first randomized, multicenter, controlled phase II trial, which showed that G-CSF did not improve survival or other clinical endpoints in patients with ACLF. Therefore, G-CSF should not be used to treat liver disease outside clinical studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2021.07.033DOI Listing
December 2021

Non-invasive assessment of fibrosis regression and portal hypertension in patients with advanced chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV)-associated liver disease and sustained virologic response (SVR): 3 years follow-up of a prospective longitudinal study.

J Viral Hepat 2021 11 1;28(11):1604-1613. Epub 2021 Oct 1.

Medizinische Klinik 1, Universitätsklinikum Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Long-term effects on cirrhosis and portal hypertension of direct antiviral agent (DAA)-based eradication of hepatitis C virus (HCV) are still under debate. We analysed dynamics of liver and spleen elastography to assess potential regression of cirrhosis and portal hypertension 3 years post-treatment. Fifty-four patients with HCV-associated cirrhosis and DAA-induced SVR were included. Liver and spleen stiffness were measured at baseline (BL), end of treatment (EOT), 24 weeks after EOT (FU24) and 1, 2 and 3 (FU144) years post-treatment by transient liver elastography (L-TE) and point shear wave elastography (pSWE) using acoustic radiation force impulse (ARFI) of the liver (L-ARFI) and spleen (S-ARFI). Biochemical, virological and clinical data were also obtained. Liver stiffness assessed by L-TE decreased between BL [median (range), 32.5(9.1-75) kPa] and EOT [21.3(6.7-73.5) kPa; p < .0001] and EOT and FU144 [16(4.1-75) kPa; p = .006]. L-ARFI values improved between EOT [2.5(1.2-4.1) m/s] and FU144 [1.7(0.9-4.1) m/s; p = .001], while spleen stiffness remained unchanged. Overall, L-TE improved in 38 of 54 (70.4%) patients at EOT and 29 of 38 (76.3%) declined further until FU144, whereas L-ARFI values decreased in 30/54 (55.6%) patients at EOT and continued to decrease in 28/30 (93.3%) patients at FU144. Low bilirubin and high albumin levels at BL were associated with improved L-ARFI values (p = .048) at EOT or regression of cirrhosis (<12.5 kPa) by L-TE at FU144 (p = .005), respectively. Liver stiffness, but not spleen stiffness, continued to decline in a considerable proportion of patients with advanced liver disease after HCV eradication.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jvh.13587DOI Listing
November 2021

Epistatic interactions promote persistence of NS3-Q80K in HCV infection by compensating for protein folding instability.

J Biol Chem 2021 09 31;297(3):101031. Epub 2021 Jul 31.

Department of Internal Medicine 1, Goethe University Hospital Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany; University Center for Infectious Diseases, University Hospital Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Electronic address:

The Q80K polymorphism in the NS3-4A protease of the hepatitis C virus is associated with treatment failure of direct-acting antiviral agents. This polymorphism is highly prevalent in genotype 1a infections and stably transmitted between hosts. Here, we investigated the underlying molecular mechanisms of evolutionarily conserved coevolving amino acids in NS3-Q80K and revealed potential implications of epistatic interactions in immune escape and variants persistence. Using purified protein, we characterized the impact of epistatic amino acid substitutions on the physicochemical properties and peptide cleavage kinetics of the NS3-Q80K protease. We found that Q80K destabilized the protease protein fold (p < 0.0001). Although NS3-Q80K showed reduced peptide substrate turnover (p < 0.0002), replicative fitness in an H77S.3 cell culture model of infection was not significantly inferior to the WT virus. Epistatic substitutions at residues 91 and 174 in NS3-Q80K stabilized the protein fold (p < 0.0001) and leveraged the WT protease stability. However, changes in protease stability inversely correlated with enzymatic activity. In infectious cell culture, these secondary substitutions were not associated with a gain of replicative fitness in NS3-Q80K variants. Using molecular dynamics, we observed that the total number of residue contacts in NS3-Q80K mutants correlated with protein folding stability. Changes in the number of contacts reflected the compensatory effect on protein folding instability by epistatic substitutions. In summary, epistatic substitutions in NS3-Q80K contribute to viral fitness by mechanisms not directly related to RNA replication. By compensating for protein-folding instability, epistatic interactions likely protect NS3-Q80K variants from immune cell recognition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbc.2021.101031DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8405986PMC
September 2021

Hepatitis C virus: Current steps toward elimination in Germany and barriers to reaching the 2030 goal.

Health Sci Rep 2021 Jun 4;4(2):e290. Epub 2021 Jun 4.

First Department of Medicine University Medical Centre of the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz Germany.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects over 70 million people globally, with an estimated 399 000 HCV-related deaths in 2016. The World Health Organization (WHO) has set a goal to eliminate HCV by 2030. Despite the availability of direct-acting antivirals-highly effective and well-tolerated therapies for HCV-many patients infected with HCV in Germany have not initiated treatment, including a majority of those who are aware of their positive diagnosis. Barriers to screening, diagnosis, and treatment are major factors taking many countries off track for HCV elimination by 2030. Identifying country-specific barriers and challenges, particularly in at-risk populations such as people who inject drugs or men who have sex with men, has the potential to create tailored programs and strategies to increase access to screening or treatment and engage at-risk populations. This review aims to report the current steps toward HCV elimination in Germany, the country-specific barriers and challenges that will potentially prevent reaching the 2030 HCV elimination goal and describe good practice examples to overcome these barriers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hsr2.290DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8177898PMC
June 2021

Reply to: "Glecaprevir/pibrentasvir + sofosbuvir + ribavirin offers high cure rate for hepatitis C virus retreatment in real-world settings".

J Hepatol 2021 07 20;75(1):254-255. Epub 2021 Apr 20.

Department of Internal Medicine 1, University Hospital, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany; German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), External Partner Site Frankfurt, Germany; Medizinische Klinik 2, St. Josefs-Hospital, Wiesbaden, Germany. Electronic address:

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2021.04.017DOI Listing
July 2021

Not uncommon: HBV genotype G co-infections among healthy European HBV carriers with genotype A and E infection.

Liver Int 2021 06 4;41(6):1278-1289. Epub 2021 May 4.

Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University Hospital Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany.

Background & Aims: HBV genotype G (HBV/G) is mainly found in co-infections with other HBV genotypes and was identified as an independent risk factor for liver fibrosis. This study aimed to analyse the prevalence of HBV/G co-infections in healthy European HBV carriers and to characterize the crosstalk of HBV/G with other genotypes.

Methods: A total of 560 European HBV carriers were tested via HBV/G-specific PCR for HBV/G co-infections. Quasispecies distribution was analysed via deep sequencing, and the clinical phenotype was characterized regarding qHBsAg-/HBV-DNA levels and frequent mutations. Replicative capacity and expression of HBsAg/core was studied in hepatoma cells co-expressing HBV/G with either HBV/A, HBV/D or HBV/E using bicistronic vectors.

Results: Although no HBV/G co-infection was found by routine genotyping PCR, HBV/G was detected by specific PCR in 4%-8% of patients infected with either HBV/A or HBV/E but only infrequently in other genotypes. In contrast to HBV/E, HBV/G was found as the quasispecies major variant in co-infections with HBV/A. No differences in the clinical phenotype were observed for HBV/G co-infections. In vitro RNA and DNA levels were comparable among all genotypes, but expression and release of HBsAg was reduced in co-expression of HBV/G with HBV/E. In co-expression with HBV/A and HBV/E expression of HBV/G-specific core was enhanced while core expression from the corresponding genotype was markedly diminished.

Conclusions: HBV/G co-infections are common in European inactive carriers with HBV/A and HBV/E infection, but sufficient detection depends strongly on the assay. HBV/G regulated core expression might play a critical role for survival of HBV/G in co-infections.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/liv.14884DOI Listing
June 2021

Treatment failure with DAA therapy: Importance of resistance.

J Hepatol 2021 06 12;74(6):1472-1482. Epub 2021 Mar 12.

St. Josefs-Hospital, Beethovenstr. 20, 65189 Wiesbaden, Germany; Goethe-University Hospital, Medizinische Klinik 1, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, 60590 Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Electronic address:

Viral resistance is a major reason for virological failure in patients being treated with direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) for chronic HCV infection. However, the importance of viral resistance mainly depends on the DAA regimen and HCV genotype. For first-line therapy with glecaprevir/pibrentasvir (G/P) or velpatasvir/sofosbuvir (VEL/SOF) no general baseline resistance analysis is required because of the high antiviral activity and high barrier to resistance. If available, resistance testing may help to optimise therapy in certain subgroups of patients with HCV genotype 3 and other rare HCV geno/subtypes. Voxilaprevir/velpatasvir/sofosbuvir (VOX/VEL/SOF) is the first choice for the second-line treatment of patients following a previous DAA failure, with rates of viral eradication above 90% irrespective of the presence of resistance-associated substitutions (RASs). However, in resource-limited settings, only first-generation DAAs may be available for second-line therapy. Here, RASs selected during initial antiviral therapy should be considered if testing is available and rescue treatment should include a switch to a regimen with a new DAA class to optimise treatment response. Patients with HCV genotype 3 are overrepresented in the group who experience DAA treatment failure. Limited data are available for third-line therapies, but promising results have been achieved with G/P plus SOF or VOX/VEL/SOF with or without ribavirin for 12 to 24 weeks; these regimens should be administered irrespective of a patient's RAS profile.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2021.03.004DOI Listing
June 2021

Point Shear-Wave Elastography Using Acoustic Radiation Force Impulse Imaging for the Prediction of Liver-Related Events in Patients With Chronic Viral Hepatitis.

Hepatol Commun 2021 01 12;5(1):112-121. Epub 2020 Nov 12.

Department of Internal Medicine 1 University Hospital Frankfurt Goethe University Frankfurt am Main Germany.

Chronic viral hepatitis is associated with substantial morbidity and mortality worldwide. The aim of our study was to assess the ability of point shear-wave elastography (pSWE) using acoustic radiation force impulse imaging for the prediction of the following liver-related events (LREs): new diagnosis of HCC, liver transplantation, or liver-related death (hepatic decompensation was not included as an LRE). pSWE was performed at study inclusion and compared with liver histology, transient elastography (TE), and serologic biomarkers (aspartate aminotransferase to platelet ratio index, Fibrosis-4, FibroTest). The performance of pSWE and TE to predict LREs was assessed by calculating the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve and a Cox proportional-hazards regression model. A total of 254 patients with a median follow-up of 78 months were included in the study. LRE occurred in 28 patients (11%) during follow-up. In both patients with hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus (HCV), pSWE showed significant correlations with noninvasive tests and TE, and median pSWE and TE values were significantly different between patients with LREs and patients without LREs (both  < 0.0001). In patients with HCV, the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve for pSWE and TE to predict LREs were comparable: 0.859 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.747-0.969) and 0.852 (95% CI, 0.737-0.967) ( = 0.93). In Cox regression analysis, pSWE independently predicted LREs in all patients with HCV (hazard ratio, 17.9; 95% CI, 5.21-61-17;  < 0.0001) and those who later received direct-acting antiviral therapy (hazard ratio, 17.11; 95% CI, 3.88-75.55;  = 0.0002). Our study shows good comparability between pSWE and TE. pSWE is a promising tool for the prediction of LREs in patients with viral hepatitis, particularly those with chronic HCV. Further studies are needed to confirm our data and assess their prognostic value in other liver diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep4.1623DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7789843PMC
January 2021

Failure on voxilaprevir, velpatasvir, sofosbuvir and efficacy of rescue therapy.

J Hepatol 2021 04 19;74(4):801-810. Epub 2020 Nov 19.

Department of Internal Medicine 1, University Hospital, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany; German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), External Partner Site, Frankfurt, Germany; Medizinische Klinik 2, St. Josefs-Hospital, Wiesbaden, Germany. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: There are limited data on patients with chronic HCV infection in whom combination voxilaprevir (VOX), velpatasvir (VEL), sofosbuvir (SOF) retreatment fails. Thus, we aimed to assess treatment failure and rescue treatment options in these patients.

Methods: Samples from 40 patients with HCV genotypes (GT) 1-4 in whom VOX/VEL/SOF retreatment failed were collected within the European Resistance Study Group. Population-based resistance analyses were conducted and clinical parameters and retreatment efficacies were evaluated retrospectively in 22 patients.

Results: Most VOX/VEL/SOF failure patients were infected with HCV GT3a (n = 18, 45%) or GT1a (n = 11, 28%) and had cirrhosis (n = 28, 70%). Previous treatments included an NS3-inhibitor (30%), an NS5A-inhibitor (100%) and SOF (85%). Baseline RAS data from a subgroup of patients before VOX/VEL/SOF retreatment (78%) showed few NS3 RASs apart from Q80K in GT1a (40%), typical NS5A RAS patterns in most patients (74%) and no S282T in NS5B. Sequencing after VOX/VEL/SOF failure was available in 98% of patients and showed only minor changes for NS3 and NS5A RASs. In 22 patients, rescue treatment was initiated with glecaprevir, pibrentasvir alone (n = 2) or with SOF±ribavirin (n = 15), VOX/VEL/SOF±ribavirin (n = 4) or VEL/SOF and ribavirin (n = 1) for 12 to 24 weeks. Sustained virologic response was achieved in 17/21 (81%) patients with a final treatment outcome. Of these, 2 GT3a-infected patients had virologic failure after rescue treatment with VEL/SOF or glecaprevir/pibrentasvir+SOF+ribavirin, and 2 patients with cirrhosis died during treatment or before reaching SVR12.

Conclusions: VOX/VEL/SOF failure was mainly observed in HCV GT3- and GT1a-infected patients with cirrhosis and was not associated with specific RAS patterns within NS3, NS5A or NS5B target regions. Rescue treatment with multiple targeted therapies was effective in most patients.

Lay Summary: The advent of direct-acting antivirals has enabled the effective cure of chronic hepatitis C in most patients. However, treatment failure occurs in some patients, who are often retreated with a combination regimen called VOX/VEL/SOF, which is associated with very high rates of cure. However, VOX/VEL/SOF retreatment also fails in some patients. Herein, we analysed samples from patients in whom VOX/VEL/SOF retreatment failed and we assessed the efficacy of different rescue therapies, showing that rescue treatment is effective in most patients (81%).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2020.11.017DOI Listing
April 2021

Quadruple mutation GCAC1809-1812TTCT acts as a biomarker in healthy European HBV carriers.

JCI Insight 2020 11 19;5(22). Epub 2020 Nov 19.

Paul Ehrlich Institute, Division of Virology, Langen, Germany.

Many mutation analyses of the HBV genome have been performed in the search for new prognostic markers. However, the Kozak sequence preceding precore was covered only infrequently in these analyses. In this study, the HBV core promoter/precore region was sequenced in serum samples from European inactive HBV carriers. Quadruple mutation GCAC1809-1812TTCT was found with a high prevalence of 42% in the Kozak sequence preceding precore among all HBV genotypes. GCAC1809-1812TTCT was strongly associated with coexistence of basal core promoter (BCP) double mutation A1762T/G1764A and lower HBV DNA levels. In vitro GCAC1809-1812TTCT lead to drastically diminished synthesis of pregenomic RNA (pgRNA), precore mRNA, core, HBsAg, and HBeAg. Calculation of the pgRNA secondary structure suggests a destabilization of the pgRNA structure by A1762T/G1764A that was compensated by GCAC1809-1812TTCT. In 125 patients with HBV-related cirrhosis, GCAC1809-1812TTCT was not detected. While a strong association of GCAC1809-1812TTCT with inactive carrier status was observed, BCP double mutation was strongly correlated with cirrhosis, but this was only observed in absence of GCAC1809-1812TTCT. In conclusion, our data reveal that GCAC1809-1812TTCT is highly prevalent in inactive carriers and acts as a compensatory mutation for BCP double mutation. GCAC1809-1812TTCT seems to be a biomarker of good prognosis in HBV infection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.135833DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7710305PMC
November 2020

Sofosbuvir, velpatasvir, and voxilaprevir for patients with failure of previous direct-acting antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis C: Results from the German Hepatitis C-Registry (DHC-R).

Z Gastroenterol 2020 Sep 18;58(9):841-846. Epub 2020 Sep 18.

University Hospital Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Despite the high effectiveness of direct-acting antivirals for the treatment of hepatitis C, a small proportion of patients do not respond to approved regimens. The combination regimen of SOF/VEL/VOX was recently approved for patients with failure to prior NS5A-based treatment. In this German real-world cohort including patients with cirrhosis (27.3 %) and previous decompensation events, 12 weeks of SOF/VEL/VOX resulted in high virologic response rates irrespective of disease severity and prior DAA regimen. Adverse events were mostly mild or moderate and comparable to those seen in the approval studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1055/a-1217-7669DOI Listing
September 2020

Prevalence of resistance-associated substitutions and retreatment of patients failing a glecaprevir/pibrentasvir regimen.

J Antimicrob Chemother 2020 11;75(11):3349-3358

Department of Experimental Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

Objectives: To investigate resistance-associated substitutions (RASs) as well as retreatment efficacies in a large cohort of European patients with failure of glecaprevir/pibrentasvir.

Methods: Patients were identified from three European Resistance Reference centres in Spain, Italy and Germany. Sequencing of NS3, NS5A and NS5B was conducted and substitutions associated with resistance to direct antiviral agents were analysed. Clinical and virological parameters were documented retrospectively and retreatment efficacies were evaluated.

Results: We evaluated 90 glecaprevir/pibrentasvir failures [3a (n = 36), 1a (n = 23), 2a/2c (n = 20), 1b (n = 10) and 4d (n = 1)]. Ten patients were cirrhotic, two had previous exposure to PEG-interferon and seven were coinfected with HIV; 80 had been treated for 8 weeks. Overall, 31 patients (34.4%) failed glecaprevir/pibrentasvir without any NS3 or NS5A RASs, 62.4% (53/85) showed RASs in NS5A, 15.6% (13/83) in NS3 and 10% (9/90) in both NS5A and NS3. Infection with HCV genotypes 1a and 3a was associated with a higher prevalence of NS5A RASs. Patients harbouring two (n = 34) or more (n = 8) RASs in NS5A were frequent. Retreatment was initiated in 56 patients, almost all (n = 52) with sofosbuvir/velpatasvir/voxilaprevir. The overall sustained virological response rate was 97.8% in patients with end-of-follow-up data available.

Conclusions: One-third of patients failed glecaprevir/pibrentasvir without resistance. RASs in NS5A were more prevalent than in NS3 and were frequently observed as dual and triple combination patterns, with a high impact on NS5A inhibitor activity, particularly in genotypes 1a and 3a. Retreatment of glecaprevir/pibrentasvir failures with sofosbuvir/velpatasvir/voxilaprevir achieved viral suppression across all genotypes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jac/dkaa304DOI Listing
November 2020

Treatment outcomes in hepatitis C virus genotype 1a infected patients with and without baseline NS5A resistance-associated substitutions.

Liver Int 2020 Jul 8. Epub 2020 Jul 8.

Department of Internal Medicine 1, University Hospital, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany; German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), External Partner Site Frankfurt, Germany.

Background&aims: The presence of baseline resistance-associated substitutions (RASs) reduced sustained virologic response (SVR) rates in chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1a infected patients treated with Elbasvir/Grazoprevir (EBR/GZR). This study aimed to evaluate the frequency of NS5A RASs and treatment outcomes in patients for whom EBR/GZR was intended.

Methods: We sequenced NS5A in 832 samples from German genotype1a-infected DAA-naïve patients population-based, which were collected in the European Resistance Database. Treatment outcomes and clinical parameters were evaluated in 519 of these patients retrospectively.

Results: Overall, 6.5% of patients harbored EBR-specific NS5A RASs at baseline, including Q30H/R (3.3%), L31M (1.8%), Y93H (1.6%) and other individual variants. Antiviral treatment, including EBR/GZR, was initiated in 88% of patients. In the absence of RASs, the majority of patients received EBR/GZR for 12 weeks (57%) and the SVR rate was 97% compared to 99% SVR achieved using other DAA regimens (LDV/SOF±RBV, G/P, PrOD+RBV, VEL/SOF). Various regimens were used in the presence of RASs and SVR rates were high following treatment with LDV/SOF (100%), G/P (83%), PrOD/RBV (100%), VEL/SOF (100%), SMV/SOF (100%) and EBR/GZR+RBV for 16 weeks (100%). However, two patients received EBR/GZR for 16 weeks without RBV and one relapsed.

Conclusions: EBR/GZR treatment with or without RBV for 12 or 16 weeks according to a baseline RAS analysis was highly effective with ≥97% SVR in patients with genotype 1a. EBR/GZR without RBV should be avoided in patients with RASs. High SVR rates were also achieved using other 8 or 12 weeks DAA regimens.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/liv.14591DOI Listing
July 2020

Resistance-associated substitutions in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus genotype 4 infection.

J Viral Hepat 2020 10 26;27(10):974-986. Epub 2020 Jun 26.

Department of Internal 1, University Hospital, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany.

Data on the prevalence of resistance-associated substitutions (RASs) and their implications for treatment with direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) are sparse in European patients with HCV genotype 4. This study investigated RASs before and after DAA failure in different genotype 4 subtypes and evaluated retreatment efficacies. Samples of 195 genotype 4-infected patients were collected in the European Resistance Database and investigated for NS3, NS5A and NS5B RASs. Retreatment efficacies in DAA failure patients were analysed retrospectively. After NS5A inhibitor (NS5Ai) failure, subtype 4r was frequent (30%) compared to DAA-naïve patients (5%) and the number of NS5A RASs was significantly higher in subtype 4r compared to 4a or 4d (median three RASs vs no or one RAS, respectively, P < .0001). RASsL28V, L30R and M31L pre-existed in subtype 4r and were maintained after NS5Ai failure. Typical subtype 4r RASs were located in subdomain 1a of NS5A, close to membrane interaction and protein-protein interaction sites that are responsible for multimerization and hence viral replication. Retreatment of 37 DAA failure patients was highly effective with 100% SVR in prior SOF/RBV, PI/SOF and PI/NS5Ai failures. Secondary virologic failures were rare (n = 2; subtype 4d and 4r) and only observed in prior NS5Ai/SOF failures (SVR 90%). In conclusion, subtype 4r harboured considerably more RASs compared to other subtypes. A resistance-tailored retreatment using first- and second-generation DAAs was highly effective with SVR rates ≥90% across all subtypes and first-line treatment regimens.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jvh.13322DOI Listing
October 2020

JNJ-56136379, an HBV Capsid Assembly Modulator, Is Well-Tolerated and Has Antiviral Activity in a Phase 1 Study of Patients With Chronic Infection.

Gastroenterology 2020 08 25;159(2):521-533.e9. Epub 2020 Apr 25.

Janssen Biopharma Inc., South San Francisco, California.

Background & Aims: JNJ-56136379 (JNJ-6379), a capsid assembly modulator that blocks hepatitis B virus (HBV) replication, was well tolerated and demonstrated dose-proportional pharmacokinetics in healthy participants in part 1 of its first clinical trial. In part 2, we have evaluated the safety, pharmacokinetics, and antiviral activity of multiple doses of JNJ-6379 in patients with chronic HBV infection.

Methods: We performed a double-blind study of 57 treatment-naïve patients with HB e antigen-positive or -negative (74%) chronic HBV infection without cirrhosis. Patients were randomly assigned to groups given JNJ-6379 at 25 mg (100 mg loading dose), 75 mg, 150 mg, or 250 mg or placebo daily for 4 weeks with an 8-week follow-up period.

Results: Twenty-three (56%) of 41 patients given JNJ-6379 had at least 1 adverse event (AE) during treatment, compared with 10 (63%) of 16 patients given placebo. No serious AEs were reported during the treatment period. Three patients (7%) given JNJ-6379 vs none given placebo had grade 3 AEs; of these, 1 patient (150 mg) also had an isolated grade 4 increase in the level of alanine aminotransferase that led to treatment discontinuation. JNJ-6379 exposure increased with dose, with time-linear pharmacokinetics. HBV-DNA and HBV-RNA decreased from baseline in patients receiving all doses of JNJ-6379, independently of viral genotype and HB e antigen status. On day 29, 13 (32%) of 41 patients had levels of HBV DNA below the lower limit of quantification. No clinically significant changes in levels of HB surface antigen were observed.

Conclusions: In a phase 1 study of treatment-naïve patients with chronic HBV infection, all doses tested of JNJ-6379 were well tolerated, showed dose-dependent pharmacokinetics, and had potent antiviral activity in patients with CHB. The findings support a phase 2a study to evaluate JNJ-6379 ± nucleos(t)ide analogs in patients with chronic HBV infection, which is under way. ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT02662712.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2020.04.036DOI Listing
August 2020

Treatment-failure to direct antiviral HCV regimens in real world: frequency, patient characteristics and rescue therapy - data from the German hepatitis C registry (DHC-R).

Z Gastroenterol 2020 Apr 10;58(4):341-351. Epub 2020 Feb 10.

St. Josefs-Hospital, Wiesbaden.

Background:  Virologic failure to approved combinations of direct antiviral agents (DAA) in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is rare. Mostly it involves difficult to treat patients with advanced liver disease and prior interferon-experience. Before approval of VOX/VEL/SOF, a restricted number of patients received rescue treatment, and the choice of DAA combinations for re-treatment were selected on an individual basis. In the present analysis, patient characteristics and rescue-regimens after virologic failure mainly based on first generation DAAs are described.

Patients And Methods:  Data were obtained from the German Hepatitis C-Registry (DHC-R), which is a national multicenter real-world cohort currently including about 16 500 patients recruited by more than 250 centers. The present analysis is based on 6683 patients who initiated a DAA therapy and for whom follow-up data (per-protocol analysis) were available.

Results:  Among the patients, 188 (2.8 %) experienced a virologic relapse. Compared to SVR-patients, relapse patients were significantly more often male (77.7 % versus 56.9 %, respectively, p < 0.001), showed cirrhosis significantly more (48.4 % versus 28.1 %, respectively, p < 0.001) and a prior interferon-containing therapy (46.3 % versus 39.0 %, respectively, p = 0.049). The majority of patients who relapsed were infected with genotype 1 (47.4 %) followed by genotype 3 (29.8 %), and 95 relapse patients started DAA re-treatment. Characteristics of patients with rescue-treatment are similar to these of patients with relapse after initial DAA treatment. Thirty-one of 39 patients with complete follow-up data achieved SVR (79.5 %), and 8 patients had a relapse again (20.5 %). Patients who received rescue treatment including a new DAA class according to guidelines, except patients who received VOX/VEL/SOF, showed higher SVR rates than the entire group (21/25, 84 %). All patients who received VOX/VEL/SOF achieved SVR (n = 4, 100 %).

Conclusions:  Patients with failure with DAA combination therapies are a difficult but urgent to treat population with the frequent presence of cirrhosis and prior treatment failure with interferon-based therapies. Rescue therapy with inclusion of a new DAA class leads to high SVR rates, but multiple targeted therapy with VOX/VEL/SOF seems to be most effective.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1055/a-1068-3056DOI Listing
April 2020

Evaluation of Point Shear Wave Elastography Using Acoustic Radiation Force Impulse Imaging for Longitudinal Fibrosis Assessment in Patients with HBeAg-Negative HBV Infection.

J Clin Med 2019 Dec 2;8(12). Epub 2019 Dec 2.

Department of Internal Medicine 1, University Hospital Frankfurt, 60596 Frankfurt, Germany.

Background: Accurate assessment of hepatic fibrosis in patients with chronic HBeAg-negative Hepatitis B is of crucial importance not only to predict the long-term clinical course, but also to evaluate antiviral therapy indication. The aim of this study was to prospectively assess the utility of point shear wave elastography (pSWE) for longitudinal non-invasive fibrosis assessment in a large cohort of untreated patients with chronic HBeAg-negative hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection.

Methods: 407 consecutive patients with HBeAg-negative HBV infection who underwent pSWE, transient elastography (TE) as well as laboratory fibrosis markers, including fibrosis index based on four factors (FIB-4), aspartate to platelet ratio index (APRI) and FibroTest, on the same day were prospectively followed up for six years. Patients were classified into one of the three groups: inactive carriers (IC; HBV-DNA <2000 IU/mL and ALT <40 U/L); grey zone group 1 (GZ-1; HBV DNA <2000 IU/mL and ALT >40 U/L); grey zone group 2 (GZ-2; HBV-DNA >2000 IU/mL and ALT <40 U/L).

Results: pSWE results were significantly correlated with TE (r = 0.29, < 0.001) and APRI (r = 0.17; = 0.005). Median pSWE values did not differ between IC, GZ-1 and GZ-2 patients ( = 0.82, = 0.17, = 0.34). During six years of follow-up, median pSWE and TE values did not differ significantly over time (TE: = 0.27; pSWE: = 0.05).

Conclusion: Our data indicate that pSWE could be useful for non-invasive fibrosis assessment and follow-up in patients with HBeAg-negative chronic HBV infection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/jcm8122101DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6947378PMC
December 2019

Utility of the new cobas HCV test for viral load monitoring during direct-acting antiviral therapy.

PLoS One 2019 18;14(11):e0224751. Epub 2019 Nov 18.

Department of Internal Medicine 1, University Hospital Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Background: The COBAS AmpliPrep/COBAS TaqMan assay HCV (CAP/CTM) is widely used in clinical routine for HCV testing. Recently, the new cobas HCV test was established for high throughput testing with minimal operator intervention. As different assays may yield different quantitative/qualitative results that possibly impact treatment decisions, the aim of this study was to externally evaluate the cobas HCV test performance in comparison to CAP/CTM in a clinically relevant setting.

Methods: Serum samples were obtained from 270 patients who received direct acting antiviral therapy with different treatment regimens at two study sites (Hannover and Frankfurt) in 2016. Overall, 1545 samples (baseline, on-treatment and follow-up) were tested in parallel by both assays.

Results: The mean difference between cobas HCV and CAP/CTM for the quantification of HCV RNA was 0.008 log10 IU/ml HCV RNA (95% limits of agreement: -0.02-0.036) showing excellent agreement of both assays. With respect to clinical cut offs (HCV RNA detectable vs. target not detected and HCV RNA above the lower limit of quantification (LLOQ) vs.
Conclusion: The performance of the new cobas HCV test was comparable to CAP/CTM in a clinical setting representing a large patient population with HCV GT 1 and 3 treated with DAAs.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0224751PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6860929PMC
April 2020

Efficacy of Retreatment After Failed Direct-acting Antiviral Therapy in Patients With HCV Genotype 1-3 Infections.

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021 01 6;19(1):195-198.e2. Epub 2019 Nov 6.

Department of Internal Medicine 1, University Hospital Frankfurt, Goethe University, Frankfurt, and German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), External Partner Site, Frankfurt, Germany; Medizinische Klinik 2, St Josefs-Hospital, Wiesbaden, Germany. Electronic address:

Hepatitis C virus infection is causing chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. By combining direct-acting antivirals (DAAs), high sustained virologic response rates (SVRs) can be achieved. Resistance-associated substitutions (RASs) are commonly observed after DAA failure, and especially nonstructural protein 5A (NS5A) RASs may impact retreatment options. Data on retreatment of DAA failure patients using first-generation DAAs are limited. Recently, a second-generation protease- and NS5A-inhibitor plus sofosbuvir (voxilaprevir/velpatasvir/sofosbuvir [VOX/VEL/SOF]) was approved for retreatment after DAA failure. However, this and other second-generation regimens are not available in many resource-limited countries or are not reimbursed by regular insurance, and recommendations regarding the selection of retreatment regimens using first-generation DAAs are very important. This study aimed to analyze patients who were re-treated with first-generation DAAs after failure of a DAA combination therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cgh.2019.10.051DOI Listing
January 2021

Hepatitis C virus genotype 1 and 2 recombinant genomes and the phylogeographic history of the 2k/1b lineage.

Virus Evol 2019 Jul 9;5(2):vez041. Epub 2019 Oct 9.

Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA.

Recombination is an important driver of genetic diversity, though it is relatively uncommon in hepatitis C virus (HCV). Recent investigation of sequence data acquired from HCV clinical trials produced twenty-one full-genome recombinant viruses belonging to three putative inter-subtype forms 2b/1a, 2b/1b, and 2k/1b. The 2k/1b chimera is the only known HCV circulating recombinant form (CRF), provoking interest in its genetic structure and origin. Discovered in Russia in 1999, 2k/1b cases have since been detected throughout the former Soviet Union, Western Europe, and North America. Although 2k/1b prevalence is highest in the Caucasus mountain region (i.e., Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia), the origin and migration patterns of CRF 2k/1b have remained obscure due to a paucity of available sequences. We assembled an alignment which spans the entire coding region of the HCV genome containing all available 2k/1b sequences (>500 nucleotides;  = 109) sampled in ninteen countries from public databases (102 individuals), additional newly sequenced genomic regions (from 48 of these 102 individuals), unpublished isolates with newly sequenced regions (5 additional individuals), and novel complete genomes (2 additional individuals) generated in this study. Analysis of this expanded dataset reconfirmed the monophyletic origin of 2k/1b with a recombination breakpoint at position 3,187 (95% confidence interval: 3,172-3,202; HCV GT1a reference strain H77). Phylogeography is a valuable tool used to reveal viral migration dynamics. Inference of the timed history of spread in a Bayesian framework identified Russia as the ancestral source of the CRF 2k/1b clade. Further, we found evidence for migration routes leading out of Russia to other former Soviet Republics or countries under the Soviet sphere of influence. These findings suggest an interplay between geopolitics and the historical spread of CRF 2k/1b.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ve/vez041DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6785677PMC
July 2019

The 'Disappearing' Liver on CEUS: Nothing to Worry About.

Ultrasound Int Open 2019 Mar 26;5(2):E78-E79. Epub 2019 Sep 26.

Department of Internal Medicine II, St. Josefs-Hospital, Wiesbaden, Germany.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1055/a-1005-7459DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6763500PMC
March 2019

Elimination of hepatitis C virus has limited impact on the functional and mitochondrial impairment of HCV-specific CD8+ T cell responses.

J Hepatol 2019 11 8;71(5):889-899. Epub 2019 Jul 8.

Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany; German Centre for Infection Research, Hannover, Germany (DZIF), Partner-site Hannover-Braunschweig, Germany; Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Essen University Hospital, Essen, Germany; Integrated Research and Treatment Centre Transplantation (IFB-Tx), Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: Hepatitis C virus (HCV)-specific CD8+ T cells are functionally impaired in chronic hepatitis C. Even though HCV can now be rapidly and sustainably cleared from chronically infected patients, the repercussions of HCV clearance on virus-specific CD8+ T cells remain elusive. Here, we aimed to investigate if HCV clearance by direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) could restore the functionality of exhausted HCV-specific CD8+ T cell responses.

Methods: HCV-specific CD8+ T cells in peripheral blood were obtained from 40 patients with chronic HCV infection, during and 6 months following IFN-free DAA therapy. These cells were analyzed for comprehensive phenotypes, proliferation, cytokine production, mitochondrial fitness and response to immune-checkpoint blockade.

Results: We show that, unlike activation markers that decreased, surface expression of multiple co-regulatory receptors on exhausted HCV-specific CD8+ T cells remained unaltered after clearance of HCV. Likewise, cytokine production by HCV-specific CD8+ T cells remained impaired following HCV clearance. The proliferative capacity of HCV multimer-specific CD8+ T cells was not restored in the majority of patients. Enhanced in vitro proliferative expansion of HCV-specific CD8+ T cells during HCV clearance was more likely in women, patients with low liver stiffness and low alanine aminotransferase levels in our cohort. Interestingly, HCV-specific CD8+ T cells that did not proliferate following HCV clearance could preferentially re-invigorate their proliferative capacity upon in vitro immune-checkpoint inhibition. Moreover, altered mitochondrial dysfunction exhibited by exhausted HCV-specific CD8+ T cells could not be normalized after HCV clearance.

Conclusion: Taken together, our data implies that exhausted HCV-specific CD8+ T cells remain functionally and metabolically impaired at multiple levels following HCV clearance in most patients with chronic hepatitis C. Our results might have implications in cases of re-infection with HCV and for HCV vaccine development.

Lay Summary: Direct-acting antiviral therapy results in cure of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in almost all treated patients. However, the impacts of HCV cure on immune responses remain controversial. Whether immune responses to HCV recover is important in cases of re-exposure, or for the resolution of extrahepatic manifestations. The main finding of our study was that HCV-specific T cells remain functionally impaired despite HCV clearance. This finding could explain the fact that HCV cure does not lead to protective immunity and that re-infections have frequently been observed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2019.06.025DOI Listing
November 2019

Serum sphingolipids predict de novo hepatocellular carcinoma in hepatitis C cirrhotic patients with sustained virologic response.

Liver Int 2019 11 3;39(11):2174-2183. Epub 2019 Jul 3.

Universitätsklinikum Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Background & Aims: Curing hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection reduces the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development, yet HCC occurs despite sustained virologic response (SVR) in 2%-8% of cirrhotic patients. Sphingolipids (SLs) have been identified as new biomarkers of chronic liver disease and HCC. The aim of this study was to evaluate serum SLs as diagnostic HCC biomarkers in patients with HCV-associated cirrhosis at SVR12.

Methods: From 2014 to 2016, 166 patients with HCV-cirrhosis and SVR were recruited and SL profiles were measured at baseline and 12 weeks after completion of direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapy. All patients received HCC surveillance in line with current guideline recommendations. Minimum follow-up period comprised 6 months.

Results: Our study included 130 (78%) patients without history of HCC, 25 (15%) with history of HCC prior DAA therapy and 11 (7%) patients with de novo HCC after FU12. In those with upcoming de novo HCC serum C24DHC (P = 0.006), C24:1DHC (P = 0.048) and C16Cer (P = 0.011) were significantly upregulated at FU12, but not AFP (P = 0.138). Contemporaneous ultrasound did not visualize HCC, at this time. C16Cer stayed sole independent predictor with high diagnostic accuracy of AFP-positive (AUC = 0.741) and -negative (AUC = 0.766) HCC development. Serum SL parameters decreased from baseline to SVR12.

Conclusions: C24DHC, C24:1DHC and especially C16Cer were superior to AFP in early detection of AFP-positive and -negative de novo HCC development. We observed significant SL profile changes upon SVR. SLs may play a role in non-invasive HCC surveillance and hepatocarcinogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/liv.14178DOI Listing
November 2019
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