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

Scientists develop infection model for tickborne flaviviruses

August 22, 2017
National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists have filled a research gap by developing a laboratory model to study ticks that transmit flaviviruses, such as Powassan virus. Powassan virus was implicated in the death of a ...

Zika virus stifles pregnant women's weakened immune system to harm baby, study finds

August 21, 2017
The Zika virus, linked to congenital birth defects and miscarriages, suppresses a pregnant woman's immune system, enabling the virus to spread and increasing the chances an unborn baby will be harmed, a Keck School of Medicine ...

Fatty liver can cause damage to other organs via crosstalk

August 21, 2017
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is increasingly common. Approximately every third adult in industrialized countries has a morbidly fatty liver. This not only increases the risk of chronic liver diseases such as liver cirrhosis ...

Novel approach to track HIV infection

August 18, 2017
Northwestern Medicine scientists have developed a novel method of tracking HIV infection, allowing the behavior of individual virions—infectious particles—to be connected to infectivity.

Faulty gene linked to obesity in adults

August 18, 2017
Groundbreaking new research linking obesity and metabolic dysfunction to a problem in the energy generators in cells has been published by researchers from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and The University ...

Two lung diseases killed 3.6 million in 2015: study

August 17, 2017
The two most common chronic lung diseases claimed 3.6 million lives worldwide in 2015, according to a tally published Thursday in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

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.