Manns MP, Buti M, Gane E et al.
Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Str. 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany.
Nature reviews. Disease primers. Mar 2017.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a hepatotropic RNA virus that causes progressive liver damage, which might result in liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Globally, between 64 and 103 million people are chronically infected. Major risk factors for this blood-borne virus infection are unsafe injection drug use and unsterile medical procedures (iatrogenic infections) in countries with high HCV prevalence. Diagnostic procedures include serum HCV antibody testing, HCV RNA measurement, viral genotype and subtype determination and, lately, assessment of resistance-associated substitutions. Various direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs) have become available, which target three proteins involved in crucial steps of the HCV life cycle: the NS3/4A protease, the NS5A protein and the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase NS5B protein. Combination of two or three of these DAAs can cure (defined as a sustained virological response 12 weeks after treatment) HCV infection in >90% of patients, including populations that have been difficult to treat in the past. As long as a prophylactic vaccine is not available, the HCV pandemic has to be controlled by treatment-as-prevention strategies, effective screening programmes and global access to treatment.