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Int J Tissue React. 1993;15(1):11-6.

Normalization of depressed natural killer activity after interferon-alpha therapy is associated with a low frequency of relapse in patients with chronic hepatitis C.

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Fondazione Andrea Cesalpino, I Clinica Medica, Università La Sapienza, Rome, Italy.


In the present study, we found that human recombinant interferon-alpha (rIFN-alpha) given at a dose of 3 x 10(6) units thrice weekly for three months, and 1.5 x 10(6) units thrice weekly for the next three months, was able to restore depressed natural-killer (NK) activity to normal values in 12 out of 21 chronic hepatitis C patients positive for anti-HCV antibodies. In all of these patients, NK normalization was still sustained after three months from suspension of therapy. Eighteen patients also showed a normalization of the alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level by the end of treatment (responder patients), independently of changes in NK activity. No significant improvement in either NK activity or aminotransferase levels was seen among 20 untreated patients. In 8 responder patients (1 with normalized and 7 with low NK activity), ALT levels returned to pre-therapy values within three months after suspension of rIFN-alpha administration (relapse). We found that patients who normalized NK activity had a lower frequency of relapse as compared to patients with low NK activity by the end of treatment (p > 0.01). Immunofluorescence analysis of biopsy-derived liver tissue revealed that rIFN-alpha was able to induce strong MHC class I antigen expression on hepatocytes of treated patients, but this was not related to the clinical course.

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