Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Mounting Fears About Hepatitis C

Simplified diagram of the structure of Hepatit...Image via WikipediaOf all my chronic conditions, I fear Hepatitis C the most. For years I have instinctively known that this little bit of single-strand RNA wrapped in a protective layer of fat and protein is wreaking havoc on my body despite the lack of scientific proof to back my claims up. I often imagine that if I could just be still enough, I might be able to hear the buzz of all those millions of little viruses invading my liver cells and turning them into viral replication machines.

Then this year I started reading more articles about 'scientific discoveries' related to Hepatitis C. Like this article with the headline Surprising Findings About Hepatitis C and Insulin Resistance which reported in March 2010 that:

In studying the insulin resistance of 29 people with Hepatitis C, Australian researchers have confirmed that they have high insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. However, almost all insulin resistance occurs in muscle, with little or none in the liver, a very surprising finding given that Hepatitis C is a liver disease. The extra insulin resistance caused by Hepatitis C apparently brings on diabetes at 35 or 40, instead of 65 or 70."

These findings were not a surprise to me. I have been living with type 2 diabetes since January 1999. The fact that Hepatitis C affects things outside the liver was also not surprising to me. After all, they take blood to do a viral load test, so obviously the virus is travelling around the body via the blood stream.

The news only gets worse. The next headline that caught my attention was Higher HCC (hepatocellular carcinoma) Risk With Increased Insulin Resistance in Hepatitis C Patients in May 2010. Yes, I have increased insulin resistance--increased insulin resistance is the hallmark of diabetes. So great, now I have to worry about an increased risk of getting liver cancer.

The latest headline from July 2010 Abnormalities of Lipid Metabolism in Hepatitis C Virus Infection wasn't new information for me either. The conclusion of the study was that "HCV is clearly exploiting the host lipid metabolism to its advantage" and creating "virally-induced fatty liver." So let's see, "the host" would be a very impersonal reference to someone like me and the "virally-induced fatty liver" would be the one inside me that has been like that for at least 12 year.

See, I told you that virus was up to no good.

Problem is, the more science catches up to my up-close and personal knowledge of Hepatitis C infection, the more freaked out I get that this small 60 nanometer Flaviviridae family virus lurking in my body is going to be my greatest enemy. Clearly this virus has not gotten the message that it is not smart to damage or kill the host (aka me) that is supplying it with food and shelter. Which brings me to the conclusion that I need to get rid of this invader.

But the real question is: will the new antiviral medications so close to being approved be the weapons I need to win this war?

To be continued...

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