Vitamin B12 supplements may help treat hepatitis C

July 17, 2012

Adding vitamin B12 to standard hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment significantly boosts the body's ability to keep the virus at bay, indicates a pilot study published online in the journal Gut.

The effects were particularly strong in patients whose infection was proving difficult to treat effectively, the findings showed.

Between 60% and 80% of those infected with the viral HCV will go on to develop , and roughly a third of them will progress to cirrhosis and terminal .

Standard treatment of interferon (peg IFN) and clears the virus in about 50% of patients infected with 1 HCV and 80% of those infected with genotypes 2 or 3.

But this approach fails to clear the virus in around half of all those infected with HCV or the infection returns once treatment stops.

While trials of new generation show promise, they are expensive, and can make treatment more difficult. And questions still remain about how well they will work in practice, say the authors.

Experimental research dating back a decade suggests that vitamin B12 may have a role in suppressing HCV. The liver is the body's primary storage centre for vitamin B12, but this capacity is impaired by diseases directly affecting the organ.

The researchers therefore wanted to see if adding vitamin B12 to standard treatment would make a difference.

Ninety four patients with HCV infection were randomly allocated to receive standard treatment or standard treatment plus vitamin B12 (5000 ug every 4 weeks) for between 24 (genotypes 2 and 3) and 48 weeks (genotype 1).

The body's ability to clear the virus was assessed after 4 weeks (rapid viral response), after 12 weeks (complete early viral response), at the end of treatment and at 24 weeks after stopping treatment (sustained viral response).

There was no difference between the two treatment approaches at 4 weeks, but there were significant differences in response at all the other time points, particularly 24 weeks after stopping treatment, which is the aim of HCV treatment and the closest it can be get to a cure.

The effects were also significantly greater among those who carried the type 1 strain, which is particularly hard to treat, and those high levels of infection (high viral load) to begin with.

Overall, adding vitamin B12 to standard therapy strengthened the rate of sustained viral response by 34%, the findings showed.

The authors conclude that until clear eligibility criteria for treatment with the new generation antiviral drugs are established, standard treatment plus is a safe and inexpensive alternative, particularly for those who carry a strain of the virus that is hard to treat.

They add: "This strategy would be especially useful in those countries where, owing to limited economic means, the new generation antiviral therapies cannot be given in routine practice."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Antibody found that fight MERS coronavirus

July 28, 2015

(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has found a MERS neutralizing antibody—a discovery that could perhaps lead to a treatment for people infected with the virus. In their paper published in Proceedings ...

Experimental MERS vaccine shows promise in animal studies

July 28, 2015

A two-step regimen of experimental vaccines against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) prompted immune responses in mice and rhesus macaques, report National Institutes of Health scientists who designed the vaccines. ...

Can social isolation fuel epidemics?

July 21, 2015

Conventional wisdom has it that the more people stay within their own social groups and avoid others, the less likely it is small disease outbreaks turn into full-blown epidemics. But the conventional wisdom is wrong, according ...

Lack of knowledge on animal disease leaves humans at risk

July 20, 2015

Researchers from the University of Sydney have painted the most detailed picture to date of major infectious diseases shared between wildlife and livestock, and found a huge gap in knowledge about diseases which could spread ...

IBD genetically similar in Europeans and non-Europeans

July 20, 2015

The first genetic study of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to include individuals from diverse populations has shown that the regions of the genome underlying the disease are consistent around the world. This study, conducted ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.