(HealthDay News) – Levels of hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA in injection drug users are independently associated with various demographic, viral, and host genetic factors, including being older, male, African-American, and co-infected with HIV.

Lorenzo Uccellini, PhD, from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, and colleagues analyzed factors influencing HCV RNA levels in an ethnically and racially diverse group of 1,701 individuals with HCV viremia (median age, 46 years) who were injection drug users (median duration of drug use, 26 years). Of these, 13.9% were co-infected with HIV.

The researchers found that the median level of HCV RNA was 6.45 log10 copies/mL. Higher RNA levels were found in those who were older, male, African-American, infected with hepatitis B virus or HIV, carrying the IL28B rs12979860-CC genotype, and infected with HCV genotype 1 compared with genotype 3 or 4, in unadjusted analyses. Age, gender, racial ancestry, HIV-1 co-infection, HCV genotype, and IL28B rs12979860 genotype were independently associated with HCV RNA levels, after adjustment for various factors.

“In conclusion, level of HCV viremia, an important predictor of response to HCV treatment, is itself influenced by a wide range of demographic, viral, and host genetic factors,” Uccellini and colleagues write. “A better understanding of the determinants of HCV viremia might lead to improved treatment of patients with chronic hepatitis C.”

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

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