Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection affects nearly 170 million individuals worldwide. Treatment of HCV with pegylated interferon-α-2a is successful in eradicating virus from only 30 to 80% of those treated. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is an important cytokine involved in the immune response to infectious agents and in vitro studies suggest that host genetic variation, particularly haplotypes, may affect IL-6 expression. We examined the contribution of haplotypes in the IL-6 gene on sustained viral response (SVR) to the therapy for chronic HCV infection. We observed the IL-6 T-T-G-G-G-G-C-A-G-A haplotype to be associated with a lower risk of achieving SVR among Caucasian Americans (CAs) ((relative risk) RR = 0.80; 95% CI: 0.66-0.98; P = 0.0261). Using a sliding window approach, the rs1800797-(G)-rs1800796-(G)-rs1800795-(G) haplotype was associated with a reduced chance of SVR (RR = 0.79; 95% CI: 0.66-0.94; P = 0.0081), as was the rs1800796-(G)-rs1800795-(G)-rs2069830-(C) haplotype (RR = 0.78; 95% CI: 0.66-0.94; P = 0.0065) among CAs. Overall, the rs1800797-(G)-rs1800796-(G)-rs1800795-(G) haplotype was independently associated with a reduced chance of SVR (RR = 0.78; 95% CI: 0.62-1.0; P = 0.0489) after adjustment for potential confounding factors. Our findings further illustrate the complexity of IL-6 genetic regulation and the potential importance of haplotypes on IL-6 expression. Our findings provide additional support for the potential importance of genetic variation in the IL-6 gene and the response to HCV therapy.
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