, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 250-255
Date: 03 May 2008

Incidence of Neutropenia and Infections During Combination Treatment of Chronic Hepatitis C with Pegylated Interferon Alfa-2a or Alfa-2b Plus Ribavirin

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Abstract

Background:

Combination therapy with pegylated interferon (peginterferon) plus ribavirin is associated with several side effects, including neutropenia and infection.

Aims:

To evaluate the incidence of neutropenia and infection between all consecutive patients with hepatitis C who were treated in two centers with peginterferon-alfa-2a and peginterferon-alfa-2b, in combination with ribavirin and actively monitored for occurrence of any infection.

Methods:

A total of 319 consecutive patients with chronic hepatitis C received once-weekly peginterferon alfa-2b at a weight-adjusted dose (n = 162) or peginterferon alfa-2a at a flat dose (n = 157), plus ribavirin.

Results:

Neutropenia was observed in 53 patients overall (17%). There were 73 infections in 73 subjects (23% of the treated population); 4/73 required hospitalization. Infections included respiratory infections (n = 23), cellulitis (n = 17), dental abscesses (n = 13), gastroenteric infections (n = 2), and other types of infections (n = 18). The incidence of all infections was significantly associated with age, especially over 60 years (p < 0.01) but not with neutropenia or type of pegylated interferon.

Conclusions:

During the treatment with pegylated interferons and ribavirin, we did not find a correlation between neutropenia and infections. This result provides a support for the notion that current guidelines for pegylated interferons dose reduction in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C for hematologic toxicity could be overly strict.