oa South African Medical Journal - Direct-acting antiviral therapy for hepatitis C : the initial experience of the University of Cape Town/ Groote Schuur Hospital Liver Clinic, South Africa - research

Volume 110 Number 2
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



Background. An estimated 600 000 South Africans are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). To date, accurate prevalence data are lacking, but emerging data suggest a significant burden in key populations. Historically, pegylated interferon and ribavirin treatment was challenging, with access limited. The advent of all-oral, short-course direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapy has revolutionised the management of HCV, being well tolerated and highly effective, although initial cost was a prohibitive factor.
Objectives. To report our initial 2-year experience with DAA therapy at the University of Cape Town/Groote Schuur Hospital Liver Clinic, South Africa (SA).
Methods. Patients who were viraemic for HCV were offered access to DAA therapy. All relevant demographic, virological, serological and clinical laboratory data were captured in a registry. Liver fibrosis was assessed non-invasively with the FibroScan. DAA regimens were prescribed according to current guidance based on HCV genotype (GT), prior treatment history and degree of fibrosis. On treatment, virological response was recorded and a sustained virological response (SVR) was defined as an undetectable HCV RNA at least 12 weeks after the end of treatment.
Results. We report on the first 210 patients treated. Their median (interquartile range (IQR)) age was 52 (42 - 61) years and 65% were male, with men significantly younger than women at 50 (42 - 59) years v. 58 (47 - 67) years, respectively (p=0.001). All GTs were observed, with 1 and 5 most prevalent at 45% and 20%, respectively, and GTs 2, 3 and 4 frequencies of 7%, 11% and 17%, respectively. Extensive subtype diversity for GTs 2 and 4 was present. The median (IQR) HCV viral load was log10 5.9 IU/mL (5.4 - 6.5). A significant proportion of patients (39%) had advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis, with 11% F3 fibrosis and 28% F4. Of those with cirrhosis, 12% were decompensated with Childs- Pugh B or C disease. Of the patients, 19% were HIV co-infected and 2% HBV co-infected. In total, 13% were treatment experienced. The majority of patients were treated with sofosbuvir and ledipasvir (38%), daclatasvir (36%) or velpatasvir (± voxilaprevir, 9%). Less frequent combinations included partitaprevir, ritonavir, ombitasvir ± dasbuvir (11%) and sofosbuvir/ribavirin (5%). The per-protocol SVR was 96% (98% if sofosbuvir/ribavirin is excluded). The majority of treatment failures occurred with GT-4, notably subtype 4r. Mild side-effects were reported in 10% of patients, with none discontinuing therapy.
Conclusions. DAA therapy for HCV in a pan-genotypic group of patients, many with advanced liver disease, was highly effective. Our outcomes correspond with existing trial and real-world data for similar treatment. DAA therapy and access need rapid upscaling in SA, especially targeting key populations at point of care.

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