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Nephrol Dial Transplant. 1997 Jul;12(7):1414-9.

Interferon treatment for hepatitis C virus infection in patients on haemodialysis.

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  • 1University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong.



This study examined the efficacy and tolerability of interferon alpha-2b (IFN) in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in patients on maintenance haemodialysis.


A 24-month prospective cohort study was performed in 11 HCV RNA-positive haemodialysis patients, who were treated with IFN at 3 MU thrice weekly for 6 months. Serial biochemical and virological monitors included serum alanine aminotransferase levels, and HCV RNA by both qualitative PCR assay and quantitative bDNA assay. HCV genotypes were determined by PCR and nucleotide sequencing. Ten patients had baseline liver biopsy.


HCV genotypes 1b and 2b were identified in 10 and one patients respectively. Six (55%) patients had biochemical and/or histological features of chronic active hepatitis before treatment. All 11 patients became HCV RNA-negative by PCR, with normalization of deranged aminotransferase levels, within 2-8 weeks of IFN therapy. HCV RNA reappeared in eight (73%) patients 2-8 weeks after the cessation of IFN, while biochemical relapse occurred in six (55%) patients. Sustained eradication of HCV was achieved in three (27%) patients. Sustained responders were characterized by pretreatment HCV RNA level < 3.5 x 10(5) Eq/ml as determined by the bDNA assay, and less severe histological abnormalities ('Total score' 1.7 +/- 1.2 compared to 5.4 +/- 2.2 in relapsers, P < 0.05). HCV RNA levels were similar before and after IFN treatment in non-responders and relapsers. Persistent malaise and poor appetite were noted in eight (73%) patients during IFN therapy. Other side-effects of IFN included the exacerbation of anaemia, induction of resistance to erythropoietin, weight loss, and reduced serum albumin level.


Eradication of chronic HCV infection with IFN can be achieved in 27% of haemodialysis patients. Predictors of sustained response include low baseline HCV RNA level and mild liver pathology. Virological relapse can occur despite normal liver biochemistry. Exacerbation of anaemia, erythropoietin resistance, and malnutrition constitute the side-effects of IFN that deserve special attention in uraemic subjects.

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