Clinical and Epidemiological Study

Infection

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 173-179

Viral kinetics during the first weeks of pegylated interferon and ribavirin treatment can identify patients at risk of relapse after its discontinuation: new strategies for such patients?

  • M. MilanAffiliated withDepartment of Surgical and Gastroenterological Sciences, Section of Gastroenterology, University of Padua
  • , S. BoninsegnaAffiliated withDepartment of Surgical and Gastroenterological Sciences, Section of Gastroenterology, University of Padua
  • , L. ScribanoAffiliated withDepartment of Surgical and Gastroenterological Sciences, Section of Gastroenterology, University of Padua
  • , S. LobelloAffiliated withGastroenterology Unit, S. Antonio Hospital, ASL 16
  • , S. FagiuoliAffiliated withGastroenterology Unit, Bergamo Hospital
  • , P. FabrisAffiliated withInfectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Unit, San Bortolo Hospital Email author 
  • , A. BudaAffiliated withDepartment of Surgical and Gastroenterological Sciences, Section of Gastroenterology, University of Padua
  • , D. MartinesAffiliated withDepartment of Surgical and Gastroenterological Sciences, Section of Gastroenterology, University of Padua

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Abstract

Background

Pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN) and ribavirin is the most effective treatment for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) hepatitis, but the rate of sustained virological response (SVR) remains approximately 50%, and 15–20% of all treated patients have a virological relapse after completing the treatment. Studies on the SVR have failed to discriminate between non-responders and relapsers.

Aims

To identify the risk factors for relapse among patients with an end-of-treatment response (ETR).

Methods

We retrospectively analyzed 281 patients consecutively treated with PEG-IFN and ribavirin with a follow-up period of at least 24 weeks. The baseline details collected on each patient included demographic data, histological features, and biochemical profiles.

Results

Forty-six patients (16.4%) relapsed during the first 6 months of follow-up after discontinuing the therapy. Relapser patients were significantly older, had more steatosis, fibrosis, and showed significantly lower rapid virological response (RVR) rates compared with SVR patients. By logistic regression analysis, only the absence of RVR was found to be significantly associated with relapses in both subgroups of patients with genotypes 1 and 4 (p < 0.004) and those with genotypes 2 and 3 (p < 0.006). Severe fibrosis was also predictive of relapsing disease, but only for genotypes 2 and 3 patients (p < 0.003). During the treatment, serum HCV-RNA decreased more rapidly in patients with SVR compared to non-responder and relapser patients (p < 0.001). Interestingly, relapser patients exhibited an intermediate serum HCV-RNA decay during the first 4 weeks of therapy.

Conclusion

Among HCV patients treated with PEG-IFN and ribavirin, the absence of RVR was the most important independent predictor of relapse, independent of the HCV genotype. In the subgroup of genotypes 2 and 3 patients, the severity of fibrosis was also an important factor associated with the relapse rate.

Keywords

Predictors HCV Relapse Viral kinetics