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J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2002 Dec;17(12):1307-11.

Is delayed normalization of alanine aminotransferase a poor prognostic predictor in chronic hepatitis C patients treated with a combined interferon and ribavirin therapy?

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Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Internal Medicine, Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taiwan.



Decreased alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level is the accepted basic indicator of an interferon (IFN) therapeutic effect in chronic hepatitis C. This study assessed whether delayed normalization of ALT predicts a poor response to a combined therapy of IFN and ribavirin in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.


Patients were treated with IFN-alpha 2b three times weekly and oral ribavirin for 24 weeks. The ALT values were assessed monthly and patterns of changes in ALT activity were analyzed. Serum HCV-RNA was checked at weeks 0, 12, 24, and 48.


A total of 103 patients completed therapy and 69 (67%) of them achieved a sustained viral response (SVR). There was no significant difference in the SVR between patients with or without early normalization (week 12) of ALT level (69 vs 56%). Of the sustained responders, nine patients (13%) with delayed ALT normalization had a SVR. Nine of the 12 patients (75%) with abnormal ALT and negative HCV-RNA at week 12 had a SVR compared with none of four patients who had positive HCV-RNA at week 12 (P = 0.0192).


Lack of normalization of the ALT level at week 12 does not preclude successful virological outcome in hepatitis C patients receiving a combined therapy of IFN and ribavirin. Hepatitis C virus RNA at week 12 may be a useful predictor of treatment outcome in patients without early biochemical response.

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