1 Liver Disease and Hepatitis Program, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Anchorage.
2 WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho) School of Medical Education, University of Alaska, Anchorage.
Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection diminishes immune function through cell exhaustion and repertoire alteration. Direct acting antiviral (DAA)-based therapy can restore immune cell subset function and reduce exhaustion states. However, the extent of immune modulation following DAA-based therapy and the role that clinical and demographic factors play remain unknown.
We examined natural killer (NK) cell, CD4+, and CD8+ T cell subsets along with activation and exhaustion phenotypes across an observational study of sofosbuvir-based treatment for chronic HCV infection. Additionally, we examined the ability of clinical variables and duration of infection to predict 12 weeks of sustained virologic response (SVR12) immune marker outcomes.
We show that sofosbuvir-based therapy restores NK cell subset distributions and reduces chronic activation by SVR12. Likewise, T cell subsets, including HCV-specific CD8+ T cells, show reductions in chronic exhaustion markers by SVR12. Immunosuppressive CD4+ regulatory T cells decrease at 4-weeks treatment and SVR12. We observe the magnitude and direction of change in immune marker values from pretreatment to SVR12 varies greatly among participants. Although we observed associations between the estimated date of infection, HCV diagnosis date, and extent of immune marker outcome at SVR12, our regression analyses did not indicate any factors as strong SVR12 outcome predictors.
Our study lends further evidence of immune changes following sofosbuvir-based therapy. Further investigation beyond SVR12 and into factors that may predict posttreatment outcome is warranted.