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Dig Dis Sci. 1995 Nov;40(11):2431-3.

Elevated serum iron predicts poor response to interferon treatment in patients with chronic HCV infection.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Ichilov Hospital, Israel.


To date, there are no firm clinical, demographic, biochemical, serologic, or histologic features predicting which patients with chronic hepatitis C are more likely to respond to therapy with interferon-alpha. Serum iron, total iron-binding capacity, transferrin saturation, and ferritin were measured in the fasting state. The amount of stainable iron in liver biopsy specimens was evaluated histochemically as well. All patients received subcutaneous recombinant human IFN-alpha 2a three million units thrice weekly by self-administration. Eleven of 13 (84%) responders had low to normal serum iron levels as compared to one of 26 (4%) nonresponders (P < 0.001). The serum transferrin was similar in both groups, but iron saturation was significantly lower in responders (30 +/- 10%) than in nonresponders (53 +/- 12%) (P< 0.001). Serum ferritin and hepatic iron content were higher in nonresponders (NS). It is suggested that increased serum iron and transferrin saturation blunt the action of interferon, as they have opposite effects on the immune system. Iron overload can thus lead to a poor response to interferon. It remains to be seen whether reducing iron overload will improve the response to interferon therapy.

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