BACKGROUND: The role of neutralizing antibody (NAb) in determining response to antiviral therapy has not been established. OBJECTIVE: In this study we have analysed the kinetic’s of the NAb response in patients with chronic hepatitis C who received antiviral therapy.
STUDY DESIGN: Seventeen patients infected with genotype 1, 2a/c or 3a hepatitis C virus (HCV) were enrolled, eight with a sustained virological response (SVR), five non-responders and four relapsers.
RESULTS: The mean NAb titre required to neutralize 50% of the E1E2-pp in patients who achieved an SVR (294+/-S.D. 51), in relapsers (246+/-S.D. 61.7) and non-responders (286+/-S.D. 80.95) did not differ significantly between the patient groups and did not alter during the course of treatment (P>0.01). Genetic variation present before antiviral therapy was analysed by single strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) and failed to demonstrate a significant difference in the mean number of amplified E1E2 DNA fragments from the serum of patients who achieved an SVR (3.15+/-S.D. 1.53), relapsers (2.8+/-S.D. 1.32) or non-responders (3.69+/-S.D. 1.75). The baseline serum HCV viral loads were also not significantly different between patients who achieved an SVR (1.4 x 10(6) copies/ml; +/-S.D. 2.4 x 10(6)), relapsers (1.3 x 10(7) copies/ml; +/-S.D. 2.4 x 10(7)) and non-responders (1.5 x 10(6) copies/ml; +/-S.D. 1.1 x 10(6)).
CONCLUSION: We have shown that neutralizing anti-HCVpp antibody is not associated with response to antiviral therapy. In addition, there was no correlation between baseline virological load, circulating viral quasi-species, NAb titres and final response to treatment.