Hepatitis C is a viral infection that affects over 3 million people in the U.S. and over 130 million people globally. It can cause acute and chronic liver infections, and those with acute infections usually do not have symptoms or know that they are infected. Acute cases often clear spontaneously without treatment; however, the infection can progress to chronic hepatitis that leads to liver cirrhosis or carcinoma. Immune responses can play important roles in hepatitis C infection and whether it develops into the chronic form. Scientists have found connections between the hepatitis C virus and peripheral blood mononuclear cells, which may play roles in clearing the virus. Alterations in peripheral blood mononuclear cells are thought to be linked to hepatitis C virus infection, but the mechanisms are not fully understood.
Recently, researchers conducted studies to determine the role of cytokine secretion in increased programmed cell death in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of patients with hepatitis C. They compared the levels of various interleukins (interleukin (IL)-1, -6, -8, -10, and -12) between untreated and treated patients with hepatitis C virus and those not infected with the virus. They also assessed programmed cell death in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells.
These scientists found that the level of programmed cell death was higher in cells of both untreated and treated patients with hepatitis C infection when compared to patients without the infection. However, low levels of three of the interleukins studied (IL-8, -6, and -10) was associated with peripheral blood mononuclear cells from the patients with the infection when compared to those who were unaffected.
The results suggest that hepatitis C virus infection is associated with an increased susceptibility to programmed cell death in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, and that this is related to a decrease in cytokine production. Further understanding of this phenomenon may be gained by studies using disease state primary cells, such as peripheral blood mononuclear cells, from human donors with hepatitis C infection. Better understanding of the mechanism of development of this disease can help in the discovery of an effective vaccine against hepatitis C infection.
Reference: Alhetheel Abdulkarim, Albarrag Ahmed, Shakoor Zahid, Alswat Khalid, Abdo Ayman, Al-hamoudi Waleed, and Alomar Suliman. Viral Immunology. March 2017, ahead of print. doi:10.1089/vim.2016.0166.