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Kidney Blood Press Res. 2007;30(3):156-61. Epub 2007 Apr 20.

Hepatitis C in dialysed patients--what is the current optimal treatment?

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Department of Dialysis, Zagreb University Hospital Centre, Zagreb, Croatia.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is an important cause of morbidity and mortality in the dialysis population. The problem is more pronounced after renal transplantation. It seems that immunosuppressive drugs facilitate HCV replication and accelerate hepatic lesions. Interferon is not recommended after renal transplantation because of the risk of acute rejection and graft dysfunction, and for this reason it is important to eradicate HCV RNA before transplantation. Prevention is the most important treatment measure. Good clinical practice together with screening of blood products and organs is of outstanding importance. Pegylated interferon (PEG-INF) and ribavirin are currently considered to be optimal therapy for HCV infection. Pegylation delays clearance of interferon, which leads to a more potent and longer antiviral effect. The two PEG-INF formulations (alfa-2a and alfa-2b) with different pharmacokinetic characteristics are currently available. Their clearance is reduced by almost 45% in patients with end-stage renal disease. Taken together with the high prevalence of adverse effects associated with the PEG-INF, an increased awareness of their use in dialysis patients is reasonable. There are few published studies on interferon and PEG-INF therapy in uremic patients. These studies confirm that the rate of response to different interferon formulations in dialysis is much higher than in the general population, but with a higher rate of adverse events. Ribavirin increases the response rate to treatment with PEG-INF. Great caution is warranted on its use in dialysis patients, whereas in patients with renal disease it accumulates and causes a dose-related haemolysis. Current results are encouraging but limited by a small number of patients and short follow-up. Multi-centre, controlled studies with longer follow-up are needed to establish an optimal protocol for the treatment of chronic HCV infection in dialysis patients.

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