Background: Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection compromises long-term outcomes of liver transplantation. Although glucocorticosteroid-based immunosuppression is commonly used, discussion is ongoing on the effect of prednisolone (Pred) on HCV recurrence and response to antiviral therapy post transplantation. Recently, new drugs (direct-acting antivirals) have been approved for the treatment of HCV, however, it remains unknown whether their antiviral activity is affected by Pred. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of Pred on the antiviral activity of asunaprevir (Asu), daclatasvir (Dac), ribavirin (RBV), and interferon-alpha (IFN-α), and on plasmacytoid dendritic cells (PDCs), the main IFN-α-producing immune cells. Methods: The effects of Pred and antiviral compounds were tested in both a subgenomic and infectious HCV replication model. Furthermore, effects were tested on human PDCs stimulated with a Toll-like receptor-7 ligand. Result: Pred did not directly affect HCV replication and did not inhibit the antiviral action of Asu, Dac, RBV, or IFN-α. Stimulated PDCs potently suppressed HCV replication. This suppression was reversed by treating PDCs with Pred. Pred significantly decreased IFN-α production by PDCs without affecting cell viability. When Asu and Dac were combined with PDCs, a significant cooperative antiviral effect was observed. Conclusion: This study shows that Pred acts on the antiviral function of PDCs. Pred does not affect the antiviral action of Asu, Dac, RBV, or IFN-α. This implies that there is no contraindication to combine antiviral therapies with Pred in the post-transplantation management of HCV recurrence.

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Transplant Infectious Disease
Department of Gastroenterology & Hepatology

de Ruiter, P., Boor, P., de Jonge, J., Metselaar, H., Tilanus, H., IJzermans, J., … van der Laan, L. (2015). Prednisolone does not affect direct-acting antivirals against hepatitis C, but inhibits interferon-alpha production by plasmacytoid dendritic cells. Transplant Infectious Disease, 17(5), 707–715. doi:10.1111/tid.12430