Changes in serum hepatitis C virus RNA titer and response to interferon therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C
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- Aiyama, T., Yoshioka, K., Hirofuji, H. et al. Digest Dis Sci (1994) 39: 2244. doi:10.1007/BF02090379
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Response to interferon (IFN) therapy for chronic hepatitis C has been determined by the alteration of serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) values. However, eradication of hepatitis C virus (HCV) could be another aim of the therapy. Thus, we serially measured serum HCV RNA levels during therapy and for at least 12 months after cessation of therapy in 65 patients with chronic hepatitis C who received IFN-α (49 cases) or -β (16 cases). The presence of HCV and its amount were measured by the combination of nested and competitive PCR. Twenty-seven patients, who were categorized as complete responders, showed sustained normalization of ALT values for more than six months posttreatment. The viral RNA titers at pretreatment were significantly lower in complete responders (logarithmic copy numbers/ml: 5.4±1.3,P<0.001) than in partial and nonresponders. Complete response rate was significantly higher in patients with HCV genotype III (68.4%,P<0.01) than those with type II (23.6%). Among 27 complete responders, HCV RNA became undetectable in only 13 patients six months after completion of therapy, and 11 still had low levels of viremia; however, none experienced relapse of the disease during follow-up of 12–24 months. Three complete responders showed lasting high-titered viremia, and their ALT values rose again during follow-up. Our data suggest that IFN treatment of chronic hepatitis C is often ineffective in eradicating HCV infection even in responders, and long-term follow-up study is necessary to determine the sustained beneficial effect of IFN.