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Study of the effect of antiviral therapy on homocysteinemia in hepatitis C virus- infected patients

Mubin Mustafa1, Sofia Hussain2, Saleem Qureshi3, Salman Akbar Malik1, Ali Raza Kazmi3 and Muhammad Naeem2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan

2 Department of Biotechnology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, 45320, Pakistan

3 Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) Hospital, Islamabad, Pakistan

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BMC Gastroenterology 2012, 12:117  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-12-117

Published: 28 August 2012



Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is one of the leading causes of chronic liver disease (CLD). About 80% of those exposed to the virus develop a chronic infection. Hyperhomocysteinemia, which is an independent risk factor for atherosclerotic vascular disease and thromboembolism

may develop in HCV-infected patients although altered alanine amino transferase (ALT) enzyme levels are generally associated with damage to liver cells. The gold standard therapy for chronic hepatitis C patients is pegylated interferon combined with an anti-viral drug (ribavirin). The current study aimed to investigate the effect of antiviral therapy on plasma homocysteine (Hcy) levels in HCV patients in addition to other parameters.


532 HCV-infected patients and 70 healthy controls were recruited for the study. All patients were subjected to laboratory investigations including HCV-RNA levels, complete blood cell counts, serum levels of homocysteine, ALT, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), lipid profile and liver ultrasonographic examination. The outcome of treatment with pegylated interferon α plus ribavirin treatment and sustained virologic response (SVR) was determined 6–9 months post-therapy.


Hyperhomocysteinemia was found in 91.35% of HCV-infected patients. The difference in plasma Hcy concentrations reached statistical significance between the patient and control groups. ALT, cholesterol and triglycerides (TGs) levels were found higher than normal in the patients group. After receiving a combined therapy for 24 weeks, 43.66% patients showed an SVR (responders); 30.98% patients were non-responders while 25.35% patients initially responded to therapy but again retrieved positive status of HCV infection six months post-therapy (relapse-cirrhotic patients). The mean levels of plasma Hcy, ALT and ALP were significantly reduced in responders within 10 weeks of therapy when compared with non-responders and relapse-cirrhotic patients.


Elevated homocysteine levels in serum due to HCV infection can be reduced to normal range with the standard interferon α plus ribavirin treatment. This study highlights the significance of the measurement of serum homocysteine levels in the diagnosis and monitoring of HCV infection treatment in addition to other laboratory parameters.

Hepatitis C virus; Infection; Interferon; Ribavirin; Homocysteine