Abstract

Antiviral treatment of chronic hepatitis C with interferon is reviewed. Alpha-interferon, both recombinant alpha-2a, -2b and human lymphoblastoid interferon given at a dose of ≥3MU t.i.w. for 6–12 months will result in normalisation of ALT levels complete response) in some 50–60% of treated patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Approximately half of the complete responders to interferon will relapse within 6 months once treatment is withdrawn (non-sustained response). Longer treatment schedules (6 vs. 12 months) seem to diminish the relapse rate and increase the percentage of sustained response. In patients with sustained response to interferon treatment with continuously normal ALT levels ≥6 months after treatment stop a concomitant eradication of the viraemia is usually seen, whereas a non-sustained or non-response to interferon usually will indicate a continuous viraemia. Factors predictive of a favourable response are low pretreatment HCV RNA levels in serum, genotypes other than type II according to Okamoto, short disease duration, female gender and less pronounced liver damage, whereas high serum HCV RNA levels, having genotype II and cirrhosis, are predictive of a less favourable response. Patients with a sustained response and eradication of the viraemia will also improve their liver inflammation with diminishing scores for portal inflammation, piecemeal necrosis, lobular inflammation and also fibrosis after treatment. For non-responders and non-sustained responders to interferon, ribavirin especially in combination with interferon will offer some hope for the future.

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