Clinical Impact of the Hepatitis C Virus Mutations in the Era of Directly Acting Antivirals

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Introduced in 2013–2014, the second- and third-wave directly acting antivirals (DAAs) have strongly enhanced the efficacy and tolerability of anti-HCV treatment, with a sustained virological response (SVR) in 90–95% of cases treated. The majority of patients who did not achieve an SVR were found to be infected with HCV strains with a reduced susceptibility to these drugs. Indeed, the high error rate of the viral polymerase and a fast virion production (100-fold higher than the human immunodeficiency virus) result in a mixture of viral genetic populations (quasi-species) pre-existing treatment initiation. These mutants occur frequently in the NS5A region, with a moderate frequency in the NS3/4A region and rarely in the NS5B region. Treatment-induced resistant mutants to NS5A DAAs persist for years after treatment discontinuation, whereas those resistant to the NS3 DAAs have a shorter duration. This review focuses on the type and prevalence of viral strains with a reduced sensitivity to DAAs, their clinical impact and influence on the response to treatment and, consequently, on treatment choice for DAA-experienced patients.

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