Hepatitis C virus (HCV) helps ensure its persistence in the body by tricking liver cells into blunting the interferon-based immune response, Science Magazine reports.

Publishing their findings in Nature Medicine, investigators followed up on previous research that found that when HCV invades a liver cell, it causes the cell to activate two genes, known as MYH7 and MYH7B. These genes produce two microRNAs, which are molecules that can impede the development of other proteins.

In this new study, the scientists found that these microRNAs interfere with cellular production of two interferons. Interferons are a component of the immune response. The microRNAs also prevent cells from developing the receptors they need for interferons to work.

These findings may help to explain why interferon treatment for hep C, which is now obsolete thanks to the introduction of direct-acting antivirals such as Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir), had such a high failure rate.

To read the Science Magazine article, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.