Featured news from NHIVNA

HIV-related news from NAM

Hepatitis C test-and-treat programme reduces HCV by two-thirds among men who have sex with Men in Swiss HIV Cohort
Keith Alcorn, 2017-10-30 15:40:00

A systematic policy of test-and-treat cured 99% of men who have sex with men with hepatitis C in the Swiss HIV Cohort in an 8-month period and reduced the prevalence of hepatitis C by almost two-thirds, Dominique Braun of the University Hospital, Zurich, reported at the 16th European AIDS Conference last week in Milan.

Dr Braun was presenting results of the Swiss HCVree trial, a non-randomised study of HCV testing, treatment and behavioural counselling designed to eliminate chronic HCV infection in HIV/HCV coinfected men who have sex with men in the Swiss HIV Cohort.

The Swiss HIV Cohort has seen a 20-fold increase in the prevalence of HCV in men who have sex with men since 1996, with the greatest increase occurring since 2008, in common with other western European countries.

Reducing onward transmission and prevalence of HCV requires a reduction in the number of chronically infected people with HCV and a reduction in risk behaviours. Chemsex – especially the use of drugs and sharing of injecting equipment during sex – and group sex are strongly implicated in the increase in hepatitis C in men who have sex with men.

In an 8-month period between October 2015 and May 2016 all MSM in the Swiss HCV Cohort were screened for active HCV infection. Screening identified 177 men with chronic HCV infection (4.8%) or which 147 had been diagnosed previously. Thirty new and previously undiagnosed HCV infections were diagnosed as a result of the screening exercise.

All men with genotype 1 or 4 infection were offered immediate treatment with a 12-week course of grazoprevir/elbasvir (Zepatier) for 12 or 16 weeks depending on baseline resistance, with additional ribavirin for all genotype 1a and 4 patients with previous experience of pegylated interferon and ribavirin, for previously untreated genotype 1a patients with baseline NS5A resistance mutations and genotype 1b patients with prior HCV protease inhibitor experience.

Of the 177 patients diagnosed with chronic HCV infection, 122 took part in the study (34 received treatment elsewhere, 11 had a genotype other than 1 or 4, 6 had contraindications for treatment and the remainder were either lost to follow up or unwilling to take part in the study).

Men who joined the trial had a median age of 46 years, 88% were white and all but one was taking antiretroviral therapy. Participants had been diagnosed with HCV a median of three years before joining the study and 79% had F0-F1 stage fibrosis, indicating little liver damage since infection. Six per cent had F3-F4 stage fibrosis.

The predominant genotypes were 1a (67%) and 4 (26%), with 7% having genotype 1b infection. HCV RNA was relatively low at baseline (865,279 IE/ml).

All patients except one achieved a sustained virologic response and was cured of hepatitis C infection. The exception was a previously untreated patient with genotype 4 infection who experienced viral rebound after treatment.

Treatment was well tolerated with no serious drug-related adverse events. Drug-related adverse events were reported in 29% of participants and were predominantly fatigue, diarrhoea, nausea and itching.