New research suggests that patients with both hepatitis C and diabetes may have their cardiovascular and kidney outcomes improved with antiviral therapy. This is according to a study published in the journal Hepatology.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an infection that can infect and damage the liver. It can be contracted if a person comes into contact with infected blood or bodily fluids.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HCV is the most common bloodborne infection in the US, affecting more than 3.2 million people.

Previous research has indicated that there is an association between HCV and diabetes. The Hepatitis Trust (resource no longer available at in the UK states that people with HCV have a significantly increased risk for developing diabetes and insulin resistance.

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Researchers say antiviral therapy for patients with both diabetes and hepatitis C may reduce the incidence of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.

According to the research team from Taiwan, led by Dr. Chun-Ying Wu of the Taichung Veterans General Hospital, patients with HCV who suffer from insulin resistance with or without diabetes tend to have a poorer response to antiviral therapies. They also have an increased risk of developing liver fibrosis and liver cancer.

The investigators note that since there is increasing evidence of a link between HCV and diabetes, they wanted to determine whether antiviral treatment for HCV could improve diabetes outcomes, such as risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.

Using data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database, the researchers analyzed 1,411 patients with both HCV and diabetes. All the patients were receiving antiviral therapy for HCV in the form of pegylated interferon and ribavirin.

In addition, the researchers analyzed 1,411 patients with HCV and diabetes who were not receiving antiviral therapy, alongside 5,644 patients who had diabetes but were not infected with HCV. All the participants were followed-up for 8 years.

Results of the analysis reveal that of patients with both HCV and diabetes who received antiviral therapy, there was a 1.1% incidence rate of end-stage kidney disease, a stroke incidence rate of 3.1% and a heart attack incidence rate of 4.1%.

Patients with both diabetes and HCV who were untreated had incidence rates for kidney disease, stroke and heart attack of 9.3%, 5.3% and 6.6% respectively, while patients with diabetes who did not have HCV had a 3.3% incidence rate for kidney disease, 6.1% for stroke and 7.4% for heart attack.

Commenting on their results, Dr. Wu says:

Our findings suggest that HCV may cause clinical complications related to diabetes. But these issues are mitigated by HCV antiviral therapy, specifically pegylated interferon plus ribavirin, which was found to reduce risks of kidney disease, stroke and cardiovascular diseases in diabetic patients.”

The investigators note that further research is needed to better understand the association between diabetes and HCV.

Medical News Today recently reported on a phase II trial suggesting that use of the drug danoprevir alongside current antiviral treatments for HCV may lead to higher remission rates.