, Volume 39, Issue 8, pp 776-782

Interferon monotherapy for patients with chronic hepatitis C and normal serum aminotransferase levels at commencement of treatment

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Abstract

Background

Approximately 30% of patients with chronic hepatitis C have normal serum alanine amino transferase (ALT) levels. While interferon (IFN) monotherapy is approved for patients with chronic hepatitis C infection, the effectiveness of such therapy for chronic hepatitis C patients with normal ALT levels at commencement of treatment remains poorly understood.

Methods

Ninety-four individuals (M/F, 54 : 40; median age, 46 years) with normal ALT levels (< 50 IU/l) at the commencement of treatment who were positive for both anti-hepatitis C virus (HCV) and serum HCV-RNA were studied. Among this group, 18 individuals (M/F, 9 : 9; median age, 50 years) had had persistently normal ALT levels for at least 3 months prior to treatment. All patients received their first course of IFN therapy in this study.

Results

Forty-three (45.7%) of 94 individuals had lost serum HCV-RNA at 6 months after cessation of therapy (complete response; CR). The proportion of patients with genotype 2a and HCV-RNA level over 1 Meq/ml who showed CR was significantly lower in those with normal ALT levels than in those with elevated ALT levels (23.8% vs 55.6%; P = 0.0189). Two patients who had persistently normal ALT levels and HCV-RNA level over 1 Meq/ml were nonresponders (NR) and had ALT flare-ups after IFN therapy. Patients with HCV-RNA levels of less than 1 Meq/ml did not show differential responses based on ALT levels.

Conclusions

Our data suggest that IFN therapy is effective for patients with normal ALT levels and less than 1 Meq/ml HCV-RNA. Thus, such patients should be considered for curative IFN therapy.