In a recent study published in the December issue of Hepatology, German scientists from the Hannover Medical School have determined that a certain flavonoid, which is a class of plant secondary metabolites, called EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), may have a significant role in preventing the Hepatitis C virus from entering liver cells. Their findings could have incredible impacts on the lives of liver transplant patients, who are always at high risk for HCV infection (which according to WHO, affects up to 170 million people worldwide and is the most common cause of chronic liver disease/hepatitis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma). Using EGCG for this particular case may therefore become an important antiviral strategy for the prevention of HCV reinfection following liver transplants.
According to these researchers, "[Their] study explored the potential effect these flavonoids have in preventing HCV reinfection following liver transplantation.” They not only found that this antioxidant EGCG inhibits HCV entry into the cells by inhibiting viral attachment to the cell (which is the initial step in the infection process), but also viewed that the application of this molecule during inoculation prevented the rapid "spread" of the Hepatitis C virus. They specifically announced that "pretreatment of cells with EGCG before HCV inoculation did not reduce the infection, however, application during inoculation inhibited the rapid spread of the HCV."
The actual mechanism of this process however is still in the "uncertain" stage. The authors have suggested that EGCG may actually be preventing the Hepatitis C virus' entry by acting on the host cell, as opposed to acting on the virus, as the green tea catechin was not found to alter the density of virus particles.
Nevertheless, this could have huge implications on future treatments of patients susceptible to chronic hepatitis, primary liver cancer or those who have just received liver transplants. Go green tea!!
- Julie Saffarian