Hepatitis C to be Treated with Genetic Help

The first biomarker that predicts a patient's response to hepatitis C treatments has been identified by U.S. researchers.

The new marker is a single letter change -- a C instead of a T -- in a segment of DNA near the IL28B gene, according to the Duke University Medical Center team. They found it by studying the DNA of 1,671 people taking part in a study of hepatitis C treatments , U.S. News & World Report reports.

Because the genotype leading to better response is in substantially greater frequency in European than African populations, this genetic polymorphism also explains approximately half of the difference in response rates between African-Americans and patients of European ancestry , Nature.com (subscription) reports.

"This discovery enables us to give patients valuable information that will help them and their doctors decide what is best for them," said David Goldstein, a geneticist at Duke University and senior author on the study.

Hepatitis C affects an estimated 170 million people worldwide and is the leading cause of cirrhosis in the North America.

Treatment typically involves 48 weeks of interferon plus the antiviral drug ribavirin. Some patients develop such taxing side effects that they stop treatment , Xinhua reports.