New test can predict success of hep C drugs

The genetic code of hepatitis C contains telltale patterns that reveal whether a patient will respond to the available drugs for the virus. Studying the viruses of 94 people infected with hepatitis C, the scientists found sections of code that were always linked to drug failure. And John Tavis of the Saint Louis University school of medicine and his team of researchers say that a genetic test could be deployed that would prevent unnecessary treatment.

"We identified mathematical patterns, which are called 'covariance networks,' to analyze the sequence of proteins in the genes or 'genetic patterns' of hepatitis C virus in two groups of patients--those who responded to and those who resisted traditional therapy," said Tavis, Ph.D., a professor of molecular and microbiology at Saint Louis University and a lead author of the paper. "What we found will allow a doctor to predict whether or not a medication will work in a patient."

"The side effects of the medicines to treat hepatitis C are terrible," Tavis told the CBC. "Why beat on a patient for a year if the treatment isn't going to work anyway? A new genetic test could probably be developed that would cost $100, but save payers $30,000 in drug costs per year.

- read the press release
- check out the report from the CBC