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J Hepatol. 2001 May;34(5):748-55.

Long-term beneficial effects in sustained responders to interferon-alfa therapy for chronic hepatitis C.

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Department ofMedicine, Surgery and Dentistry, School of Medicine Ospedale San Paolo, University of Milan, Italy.



Assessment of chronic hepatitis C outcome in sustained responders to interferon requires prolonged observation and close monitoring. We prospectively studied the impact of sustained response on histology and clinically relevant outcomes.


The 47 sustained responders (ten with cirrhosis) from two interferon trials involving 235 chronic hepatitis C patients (81 with cirrhosis) were included. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA was assessed every 6 months, liver histological changes from baseline, 6-12 and 48-72 months after treatment discontinuation.


The mean follow-up was 102 +/- 19 months. HCV RNA became undetectable in 36/47 responders. Four responders, who had remained viremic, later relapsed. The histology progressively improved in non-viremic and viremic patients, with a more marked improvement in the former (P = 0.0089), normalizing in 53 vs. 0% (P = 0.0220). No patient progressed to cirrhosis. One non-viremic cirrhotic patient developed a hepatocellular carcinoma. Non-responders from the two original trials had worse histological outcomes and those with cirrhosis had a higher rate of clinically relevant events compared with cirrhotics showing a sustained biochemical response (4.5 vs. 1.2 cases/100 person-years; CI for the difference, 0.3-6.3).


Most sustained, virological responders without cirrhosis normalize liver histology in the long-term and are cured of the disease. Sustained responders remaining viremic still show histological improvement, albeit to a lesser extent.

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