Back HCV Basic Science Methamphetamine Promotes Hepatitis C Virus Replication in Human Liver Cells

Methamphetamine Promotes Hepatitis C Virus Replication in Human Liver Cells

While there have been numerous studies of hepatitis C in individuals who inject drugs (primarily heroin), less is known about the effects of non-injection drugs on hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Methamphetamine is a stimulant that may be taken as a pill, injected, snorted, smoked, or administered anally. In the April 2008 Journal of Viral Hepatitis, L. Ye of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and colleagues reported on a laboratory study looking at whether methamphetamine inhibits innate immunity in host cells, thereby facilitating HCV replication in human hepatocytes (liver cells). 


Methamphetamine inhibited natural intracellular interferon alpha expression in human hepatocytes, which was associated with increased HCV replication.

Methamphetamine also compromised the anti-HCV effect of recombinant interferon alpha, as used for hepatitis C treatment.

Introduction of methamphetamine inhibited expression of the signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT-1), a key modulator of interferon-mediated biological responses.

Methamphetamine also down-regulated expression of interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF-5), a transcriptional factor that activates the interferon pathway. 

In conclusion, the authors wrote, "These in vitro findings that methamphetamine compromises interferon alpha-mediated innate immunity against HCV infection indicate that methamphetamine may have a cofactor role in the immunopathogenesis of HCV disease."



L Ye, JS Peng, Z Wang, and others. Methamphetamine enhances Hepatitis C virus replication in human hepatocytes. Journal of Viral Hepatitis 1594): 261-270. April 2008.