Does Hepatitis C Co-Infection in HIV Worsen Mental Decline?

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Hepatitis C Co-Infection in HIV Doesn't Worsen Mental Decline
Hepatitis C Co-Infection in HIV Doesn't Worsen Mental Decline

(HealthDay News) — Hepatitis C infection does not contribute to neurocognitive impairment in people with HIV, according to a new study published online Dec. 10 in Neurology.

Researchers examined 1,582 HIV patients -- about one-quarter of whom were also infected with hepatitis C -- and found no link between hepatitis C infection and neurocognitive impairment.

"Hepatitis C infection has serious long-term side effects, such as damage to the liver, but our research indicates that it does not affect the brain," lead author David Clifford, M.D., a professor of neurology and medicine from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in a university news release.

Clifford and his team will now focus on immune responses triggered by HIV in the brain and the bowel during the initial stages of infection. These early immune responses may trigger chronic inflammation that harms the brain. "If a hepatitis C infection gets to the point where it damages liver function, the resulting inflammation might well contribute to mental impairment," Clifford said. "Beyond that, though, it doesn't seem to be an active collaborator in the harm HIV does to the brain."

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