Children's Hospital takes part in worldwide hepatitis C treatment trial in children

5th May 2016

The Gastroenterology Team at John Hunter Children’s Hospital is participating in an international multi-centre clinical trial of new treatments for hepatitis C infection. Around 230,000 people in Australia are infected with hepatitis C and the complications of this chronic infection include liver scarring, liver failure and cancer. 

Children can become infected around the time of birth if their mothers have hepatitis C infection, or from other sources such as needle stick injuries. Until now, the only treatments available involved receiving a combination of oral and injected medicines which meant weekly needles for at least six months. Even then, the success of this therapy was limited with only 30-80% clearance of the virus depending on the particular strain.  In addition, the side of effects of the injected medicine called interferon were common and unpleasant. Many people had to stop the treatment because of the side effects.

This study, which was the first to look at how well a new drug called sofosbuvir worked in combination with another drug called ledipasvir for the treatment of children and adolescents with hepatitis C infection.  This treatment is oral only - no injections were required. Three local teenagers that were current patients of the Children’s Hospital for hepatitis C infection were involved in the study, which included 100 children from around the world. 

None of the patients had any side effects due to the medication and after only four weeks of treatment, the virus was not detectable in their blood and liver tests were completely normal.  All of the patients in the study who have been followed to 12 weeks after finishing treatment have cleared the virus from their blood. 

The results are very impressive and show that these medications work well and are safe in young people, as well as adults.  The initial results of this study were recently presented at the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) annual meeting. The Children’s Hospital team are now involved in a study looking at treatment in younger children.

While Dr Scott Nightingale, Paediatric Gastroenterologist and Lee Grant, Research Nurse, are excited to participate in the trial,they are more excited about the benefits to their patients.

‘It has been fantastic to be part of an important clinical trial that will change the way hepatitis C is treated in children, and see our patients benefit directly from our involvement,’ Dr Nightingale said.


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