Journal of NeuroVirology

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 561–570 | Cite as

Persistent neurocognitive decline in a clinic sample of hepatitis C virus-infected persons receiving interferon and ribavirin treatment

  • Jordan E. Cattie
  • Scott L. Letendre
  • Steven Paul Woods
  • Fatma Barakat
  • William Perry
  • Mariana Cherner
  • Anya Umlauf
  • Donald Franklin
  • Robert K. Heaton
  • Tarek Hassanein
  • Igor GrantEmail author
  • The Translational Methamphetamine AIDS Research Center (TMARC) Group


Treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) with pegylated interferon and ribavirin (IFN/RBV) can be associated with neuropsychiatric side effects, which may necessitate dose reductions or treatment discontinuation. This study aimed to characterize the time course and predictors of cognitive and affective/mood symptoms after IFN/RBV treatment initiation. Forty individuals enrolled in a longitudinal project underwent comprehensive cognitive, medical, and psychiatric assessment at baseline and 10 weeks, 6 months, 12 months, and 18 months after treatment initiation. Analyses were conducted to determine the prevalence of neurocognitive impairment over time; explicate the relationship between neurocognitive impairment, neuropsychiatric symptoms, and liver disease at each time point; and identify predictors of neurocognitive decline as well as cognitive effects of viral clearance. By 10 weeks after initiating IFN/RBV, the prevalence of neurocognitive impairment rose from 22.5 to 47.4 % (p < 0.05). Infection with genotype 1 and premorbid depression were associated with more severe declines (p < 0.05). After 18 months, 42.5 % remained neurocognitively impaired, independent of viral clearance, severity of liver disease, and current depressive symptoms. Undetectable viral load was not associated with improvement 18 months after initiating treatment (p > 0.10). Results of the current study indicate that IFN/RBV treatment-emergent neurocognitive declines are significant, prevalent, and may persist long after treatment cessation. Clinicians should monitor cognition throughout the course of treatment for HCV, noting that early declines may indicate individuals at elevated risk for persistent neurocognitive impairment. Longer-term studies are needed to determine whether lasting declines may remit over longer intervals or with newer direct acting agents.


Antiviral treatment Side effects (treatment) Neuropsychological effects Cognitive dysfunction/impairment Depressive symptoms 



Hepatitis C virus


Interferon and ribavirin


Central nervous system


National Institute on Drug Abuse


University of California San Diego


Immunoglobulin G


Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay


Human immunodeficiency virus


Major depressive disorder


Global deficit score


Standard deviation


Beck Depression Inventory-II


Aspartate aminotransferase to platelet ratio index



The Translational Methamphetamine AIDS Research Center (TMARC) is supported by Center award P50DA026306 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and is affiliated with the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (SBMRI). The TMARC comprised the following: Director— Igor Grant, M.D.; Co-Directors —Ronald J. Ellis, M.D., Ph.D., Cristian L. Achim, M.D., Ph.D., and Scott L. Letendre, M.D.; Center Manager—Steven Paul Woods, Psy.D.; Assistant Center Manager—Aaron M. Carr, B.A.; Clinical Assessment and Laboratory (CAL) Core: Scott L. Letendre, M.D. (Core Director), Ronald J. Ellis, M.D., Ph.D., Rachel Schrier, Ph.D.; Neuropsychiatric (NP) Core: Robert K. Heaton, Ph.D. (Core Director), J. Hampton Atkinson, M.D., Mariana Cherner, Ph.D., Thomas D. Marcotte, Ph.D., Erin E. Morgan, Ph.D.; Neuroimaging (NI) Core: Gregory Brown, Ph.D. (Core Director), Terry Jernigan, Ph.D., Anders Dale, Ph.D., Thomas Liu, Ph.D., Miriam Scadeng, Ph.D., Christine Fennema-Notestine, Ph.D., Sarah L. Archibald, M.A.; Neurosciences and Animal Models (NAM) Core: Cristian L. Achim, M.D., Ph.D. (Core Director), Eliezer Masliah, M.D., Stuart Lipton, M.D., Ph.D.; Administrative Coordinating Core (ACC)—Data Management and Information Systems (DMIS) Unit: Anthony C. Gamst, Ph.D. (Unit Leader), Clint Cushman (Unit Manager); ACC—Statistics Unit: Ian Abramson, Ph.D. (Unit Leader), Florin Vaida, Ph.D., Reena Deutsch, Ph.D., Anya Umlauf, M.S.; ACC—Participant Unit: J. Hampton Atkinson, M.D. (Unit Leader), Jennifer Marquie-Beck, M.P.H. (Unit Manager); Project 1: Arpi Minassian, Ph.D. (Project Director), William Perry, Ph.D., Mark Geyer, Ph.D., Brook Henry, Ph.D.; Project 2: Amanda B. Grethe, Ph.D. (Project Director), Martin Paulus, M.D., Ronald J. Ellis, M.D., Ph.D.; Project 3: Sheldon Morris, M.D., M.P.H. (Project Director), David M. Smith, M.D., M.A.S., Igor Grant, M.D.; Project 4: Svetlana Semenova, Ph.D. (Project Director), Athina Markou, Ph.D., James Kesby, Ph.D.; Project 5: Marcus Kaul, Ph.D. (Project Director). The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Government. We have no commercial affiliations or consultancies which might be construed as conflicts of interest. Financial support: NIH (P50-DA026306), P01 DA12065, P30-MH062512.


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Copyright information

© Journal of NeuroVirology, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jordan E. Cattie
    • 1
  • Scott L. Letendre
    • 3
  • Steven Paul Woods
    • 2
  • Fatma Barakat
    • 3
  • William Perry
    • 2
  • Mariana Cherner
    • 2
  • Anya Umlauf
    • 2
  • Donald Franklin
    • 2
  • Robert K. Heaton
    • 2
  • Tarek Hassanein
    • 3
  • Igor Grant
    • 4
    Email author
  • The Translational Methamphetamine AIDS Research Center (TMARC) Group
  1. 1.University of California, San Diego, Translational Methamphetamine AIDS Research CenterSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  3. 3.Department of MedicineUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of California, San Diego, Translational Methamphetamine AIDS Research CenterLa JollaUSA

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