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Original article

Cytoplasmic rods and rings autoantibodies developed during pegylated interferon and ribavirin therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C

Giovanni Covini, Wendy C Carcamo, Elena Bredi, Carlos A von Mühlen, Massimo Colombo, Edward KL Chan

Corresponding author name: Giovanni Covini; Edward KL Chan
Corresponding author e-mail: giovanni.covini@humanitas.it; echan@ufl.edu

Citation: Antiviral Therapy 2012; 17:805-811
doi: 10.3851/IMP1993

Date accepted: 29 September 2011
Date published online: 01 December 2011


Background: Serum autoantibodies are frequently detected in patients with chronic HCV infection, reflecting the wide spectrum of immune reactions related to this virus. In the present study, a novel autoantibody to cytoplasmic rods and rings (RR) in chronic HCV patients was characterized.

Methods: Sera from 75 previously untreated HCV patients were investigated by indirect immunofluorescence using HEp-2 cell substrate before and during pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN)/ribavirin (RBV) therapy. HEp-2 cells were cultured and fixed either following standard protocols or with the addition of RBV in culture medium.

Results: In 15 out of 75 (20%) patients, analysis revealed the presence of antibodies to rod-like cytoplasmic structures ranging approximately 3–10 μm in length and rings approximately 2–5 μm in diameter. These RR structures became detectable in >95% of cells after addition of RBV in culture medium, whereas they were absent in untreated cells. Anti-RR antibodies were found in sera collected during PEG-IFN/RBV treatment only, but never detected before antiviral therapy nor in control groups. More importantly, these anti-RR antibodies were more often detected in non-responder/relapsers than in responder patients (33% versus 11%; P-value =0.037).

Conclusions: An RBV-induced autoantibody was identified to a new cytoplasmic autoantigenic structure developed in HCV patients after PEG-IFN/RBV and this same structure can be induced by RBV in in vitro culture. Owing to the onset of anti-RR antibodies in PEG-IFN/RBV-treated patients and their association with a treatment failure, studies are deemed necessary to clarify whether anti-RR plays a role in the response to PEG-IFN/RBV therapy.


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