Grapefruit Compound May Help Combat Infection

Photo: Grapefruit sliced in half

Grapefruit compound may help
combat hepatitis C; © SXC

A team of researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Engineering in Medicine (MGH-CEM) report that HCV is bound to very low-density lipoprotein (vLDL, a so-called “bad” cholesterol) when it is secreted from liver cells and that the viral secretion required to pass infection to other cells may be blocked by the common flavonoid naringenin.

If the results of this study extend to human patients, a combination of naringenin and antiviral medication might allow patient to clear the virus from their livers. “By finding that HCV is secreted from infected cells by latching onto vLDL, we have identified a key pathway in the viral lifecycle,” says Yaakov Nahmias, PhD, of the MGH-CEM, the paper’s lead author. “These results suggest that lipid-lowering drugs, as well as supplements, such as naringenin, may be combined with traditional antiviral therapies to reduce or even eliminate HCV from infected patients.”

HCV is the leading cause of chronic viral liver disease in the United States and infects about 3 percent of the world population. Current antiviral medications are effective in only half of infected patients, 70 percent of whom develop chronic infection that can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Grapefruit’s bitter taste is caused the presence of the flavonoid naringin, which is metabolized into naringenin, an antioxidant previously reported to help lower cholesterol levels. Considerable research has suggested that HCV infects liver cells by, in essence, “hitching a ride” onto the natural lipoprotein-cholesterol metabolic pathway. Since earlier evidence has shown that naringenin can reduce secretion of vLDL from liver cells, the researchers examined whether the compound might also lower HCV secretion from infected cells. Their experiments confirmed that naringenin does reduce the secretion of HCV from infected cell lines and showed that the compound inhibits the mechanism for secreting a specific lipoprotein that binds HCV.; Source: Massachusetts General Hospital