Washington, June 8 (IANS) Coffee, with its numerous virtues, has another one to add to its list - it can treat advanced hepatitis C patients with chronic liver disease.
According to a study, patients who received peginterferon plus ribavirin treatment and drank three or more cups of coffee a day were two times more likely to respond to treatment than non-drinkers.
About 75 percent of people have no symptoms when they first acquire hepatitis C infection. The remaining 25 percent may complain of fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches or fever. Yellowing of the skin or eyes is rare at this early stage of infection.
Later people with chronic infection may begin to experience the effects of the persistent inflammation caused by the immune reaction to the virus.
Blood tests may show elevated levels of liver enzymes, a sign of liver damage, which is often the first suggestion that the infection may be present. Patients may become easily fatigued or complain of non-specific symptoms.
"Coffee intake has been associated with a lower level of liver enzymes, reduced progression of chronic liver disease and reduced incidence of liver cancer," said study-eader Neal Freedman of the National Cancer Institute, the journal Gastroenterology reports.
Approximately 70 to 80 percent of individuals exposed to hepatitis C virus (HCV) become chronically infected. Worldwide, these individuals are estimated to number between 130 and 170 million, according to Cancer Institute statement.
Higher coffee consumption has been associated with slower progression of pre-existing liver disease and lower risk of liver cancer. However, the relationship with response to anti-HCV treatment had not been previously evaluated.
Treatment with peginterferon and ribavirin resolves chronic hepatitis C in about half of patients. It is unknown whether coffee will improve response with the addition of new drugs that were recently approved for use in the US.