Health Facts: Can Hepatitis C Be Cured?

A number of hepatitis C virus subtypes are already identified and no dramatic difference in terms of pathogenicity or virulence can be determined for all these known strains so can hepatitis C be cured then?  In order to answer this, it is vital to understand the disease process of hepatitis C, evaluate symptomatology, and dispel myths or beliefs about the condition.

Hepatitis C (previously termed as non-A, non-B hepatitis) is an often asymptomatic infectious liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. It affects an estimate of 150 million people yearly with about 300,000 of mortality cases. Mode of transmission is basically through blood.  Transfusion and IV drug use are the most commonly reported causes.

It is interesting to note, however, that even shared razors or shavers or other instruments that lead to accidental prick or cut are potential hepatitis C causes.  This makes it more transmissible than any other blood-borne viruses like HIV, but can hepatitis C be cured still? Remember that about 70% of the cases of hepatitis C experience hardly any symptoms. The few remaining only reports of appetite loss, myalgias, fever, or lethargy which are constitutional symptoms that may appear in any other disease process and may not totally give justice to diagnosis of hepatitis.  Further, jaundice usually does not present at the early onset of hepatitis C and may only manifest once the condition becomes chronic and gradual liver scarring and loss may ensue.

Misconceptions on hepatitis C are common. A number of individuals believe that it is a kind of sexually transmitted disease and that STD medications help on how can hepatitis C be cured.  Although there may have been reported cases of transmission of hepatitis C by infected individuals through sexual activity, it is still blood as the primary route of transmission.  It is hepatitis B, however, that may develop after sexual intercourse and is considered a serious kind of STD.

Also, hepatitis C is not caused by chronic alcoholism as some may say.  It is alcoholic hepatitis that is the direct result of excessive alcohol usage and is an entirely different disease process.  The similarity between hepatitis C and alcoholic hepatitis lies in the fact that both could lead to progressive cirrhosis and liver failure if untreated.

Health Facts: Can Hepatitis C Be Cured?

Another misunderstanding is that herbal and homeopathic cures are available for hepatitis C. Up until this point, however, only sustained virologic response (SVR) medications are accepted treatment for hepatitis C. Even these combination medications do not provide 100% disease cure with only 60 to 80% chances and so other remedies must be cautiously considered before even trying.

These misbeliefs on hepatitis C limited people’s notions on what really this infection is.  Dispelling all these can gauge up to what extent can hepatitis C be cured.

Being an asymptomatic liver infection, hepatitis C may be very difficult to detect initially.  Diagnostic tests are usually performed to screen for hepatitis C especially for high-risk individuals. These include but may not be limited to patients with deviated liver function studies, those who reported contact with HCV-positive patient, those who inject street drugs, and those manifesting chronic liver disease symptoms as jaundice, inexplicable weight gain or weight loss, or dark urination.  Based on the above description of the disease process and accompanying fallacies if can hepatitis C be cured, it is safe to ascertain that there truly is standard management for hepatitis C infection.

For screening, only two tests are used for HCV. First is anti-HCV test. It detects antibodies in the virus to evaluate HCV exposure.  The drawback to this test, however, is that it could not classify active from prior HCV infection and some results could yield weakly or falsely positive interpretation.  For these outcomes, HCV RIBA test becomes the confirmatory exam for HCV.  HCV RIBA (recombinant immunoblot assay) determines as to whether positive anti-HCV screen is secondary to HCV exposure or just a false signal.

For guiding treatment if can hepatitis C be cured, three tests are considered standard tools for HCV. Viral genotyping is ordered before initiation of cure in order to predict the likelihood of positive response to treatment, length of management, and prognosis.  It primarily identifies the strain of HCV virus present in the blood and is very useful since there are 6 major genotypes of HCV and each genotype has differing virulence.  For example, genotype 1 is more potent than genotypes 2 and 3 and management is usually longer for cases of this causality.  Instead of 24 weeks for genotypes 2 and 3, sometimes it extends up to 48 weeks of therapy. Quantitative HCV viral load measures RNA particles of the virus found in the blood. This is often ordered before and during treatment to compare patient’s response with management. Detection of decreased viral load can be accurately identified after the first or second month of hepatitis C treatment, and through the third month, this may become undetectable. Finally, qualitative HCV RNA test distinguishes current from previous HCV exposure and is ordered after treatment to ensure that the bloodstream is totally free of the virus.

Medication-wise, the only established treatment for hepatitis C is a combination of ribavirin and peginterferon, although in more chronic cases telaprevir or boceprevir is given in conjunction with the previous.  Ribavirin is considered a broad-spectrum antiviral that inhibits RNA virus’ replication creating hypermutations which are lethal for RNA viruses including HCV.  This is administered orally at 800 to 1400 mg in 2 split dosages but dosage still depends on genotype of HCV.  Pegylated interferon (peginterferon), on the other hand, is an injectable protein that primarily combats viruses to restore body health.  The drug is expensive and is only administered once weekly.  Only through these can hepatitis C be cured.

Other palliative treatment is given to cover other symptoms. Prompt detection through periodic liver function studies is highly recommended for at-risk individuals because, as identified, hepatitis C is initially asymptomatic and progressive irreversible liver damage (like cirrhosis) may develop if undiagnosed or untreated. Ultimately, through the abovementioned diagnostic studies and medications can hepatitis C be cured and prevent long-term complications.