Direct antivirals and cognitive impairment in hepatitis C: a clinical-neurophysiologic study

Cognition was assessed in hepatitis C virus (HCV) patients, who did not meet the criteria for a minimal hepatic encephalopathy. Their liver function was compensated. We then disentangled potential cognitive changes associated with a sustained virologic response at 12 weeks (SVR-12), following treatment with direct antiviral agents (DAAs). We studied 23 selected HCV patients with a battery of standard neuropsychological tests, and with recordings of the P300 wave, a cerebral potential of “cognitive” significance. There was a baseline evaluation (T0) and a second one 6 months later (T1). We had 2 control groups of comparable age and sex, i.e., 15 patients suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and 15 healthy subjects. At T0, we detected a significant (p < 0.05) cognitive impairment in the HCV group, which involved episodic and working memory, attention, visuospatial and verbal abilities, executive functions, and logic reasoning. The P300 latency was significantly (p < 0.05) delayed in the group. At T1, we observed some significant (p < 0.05) HCV recovery in given test domains, e.g., memory, executive functions, and reasoning. Accordingly, the P300 latency shortened significantly (p < 0.05). HCV patients exhibited subtle cognitive defects, somehow independent of their liver condition, possibly linked to direct or indirect brain involvement by the virus. These defects partly recovered following the SVR-12, as achieved through DAAs. The P300 wave was a valid neurophysiologic counterpart of these changes. DAAs can have a role in the early preservation of cognition in HCVs.


Vaghi G, Gori B, Strigaro G, Burlone M, Minisini R, Barbaglia MN, Brigatti E, Varrasi C, Pirisi M, Cantello R. Direct antivirals and cognitive impairment in hepatitis C: a clinical-neurophysiologic study. J Neurovirol. 2020 Sep 10. doi: 10.1007/s13365-020-00904-6. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32910431.

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