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G Ital Nefrol. 2012 Jan-Feb;29 Suppl 54:S103-8.

[Chronic hepatitis C virus infection: clinical picture and treatment possibilities].

[Article in Italian]

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Dipartimento di Medicina Interna e Scienze Mediche Specialistiche, Policlinico Universitario A. Gemelli - Universita' Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Roma, Italy.


It has been estimated that between 1.5 and 2 million people in Italy have anti-HCV antibodies. The vast majority are chronically infected with HCV and are unaware of the infection. Chronic hepatitis C is asymptomatic during most of its course, which lasts decades. The diagnosis is based on anti-HCV antibodies and, subsequently, an HCV-RNA test, to be performed in all subjects with persistently elevated ALT and in those who are at risk of HCV infection. The identification of infected subjects allows prophylaxis of advanced liver disease, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma by antiviral treatment, which is effective in about 50% of patients. The current standard of care for chronic HCV infection is the combination of pegylated interferon and ribavirin. Their dosage and the duration of therapy are tailored to the HCV genotype and the time to viral response. The frequent occurrence of adverse events, mainly hematological, requires careful monitoring, dose reduction in some cases, and, rarely, the use of erythrocyte or leukocyte growth factors. A new class of drugs for HCV treatment, the direct acting antivirals, is currently under development. Two of these drugs, the viral protease inhibitors boceprevir and telaprevir, are awaiting registration in Europe for use in association with pegylated interferon and ribavirin. These drugs are expected to ameliorate the virus eradication rates in patients who have not received previous antiviral treatment and, more importantly, to accomplish effective treatment in those patients who are partial responders to the current standard of care.

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