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


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.


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.


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.


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.