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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574


NORDIEN, R; SONDERUP, M W  and  SPEARMAN, C W. A decade of hepatitis C at the University of Cape Town/ Groote Schuur Hospital Liver Clinic, South Africa, in the pre-direct-acting antivirals era. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2020, vol.110, n.2, pp.106-111. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) in South Africa (SA) is incompletely characterised and understood. Epidemiological and clinical data will better inform our understanding and assist national policy decision-making. Against the background of more than two decades of clinical challenges in HCV management, the advent of direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) now makes HCV elimination plausible.OBJECTIVES. To better understand the base from which we come, we elected to review and characterise our HCV experience at Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH), Cape Town, SA, in the pegylated interferon (Peg-IFN) and ribavirin (RBV) management era.METHODS. Patients with chronic HCV infection attending the GSH Liver Clinic from 2002 to 2014 were included in the analysis. Relevant data were extracted from a registry and existing clinical records were accessed. Two brands of Peg-IFN were available, and patients treated with the first-generation add-on protease inhibitor telaprevir were included.RESULTS. A total of 238 patients were included in the analysis (median (interquartile range) 47 (37 - 58) years, 60.5% males). Males were significantly younger than females (43.5 (35 - 52) years v. 55 (42 - 64) years, respectively) (p<0.0001). The majority were white (55.9%) or of mixed ancestry (21.8%), 16.4% were HIV co-infected, 3.7% were hepatitis B virus (HBV) co-infected, and 1 patient (0.4%) was triple-infected with HCV, HBV and HIV. The most likely mode of HCV acquisition was blood or blood product exposure prior to 1992 (32.8%) and injecting drug use (17.6%), while 30.3% of patients had no clear risk factor identifiable. Genotypes (GTs) 1 - 5 were observed, with GT-1 (34.9%) predominating. Of patients who were biopsied (n=90), 30.0% had >F3 fibrosis, with 15.6% cirrhotic. With IL28B polymorphisms, the heterozygous CT (23.9%) and CC (15.5%) genotypes were most frequent. Of the patients, 32.6% accessed Peg-IFN/RBV-based therapy, 6.5% (n=5) with add-on telaprevir. GT-1 (35.1%) was most prevalent in the treatment group, followed by GT-3 (26.0%) and GT-5 (18.2%); 10.0% were HIV co-infected. The overall sustained virological response (SVR) rate was 75.3%, with 37.0% of GT-1 patients not achieving SVR. Of the patients treated, 49.4% experienced adverse events, including cytopenias (32.5%) and depression (15.6%), and 23.4% required cell support in the form of erythropoietin and/or granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor.CONCLUSIONS. HCV patients in the Peg-IFN/RBV management era typified the epidemiology of HCV. GT distribution was pangenotypic, and treatment outcomes were encouraging despite treatment challenges. Patient selection, IL28B and sensible support of cytopenias probably accounted for these favourable outcomes. However, numbers treated were limited, and the DAA era of therapy allows for rapid expansion of therapy with now growing numbers of patients and a changing local epidemiology.

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