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J Hepatol. 1996 Dec;25(6):827-32.

Permanent response to alpha-interferon therapy in chronic hepatitis C is preceded by rapid clearance of HCV-RNA from serum.

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Liver Unit, Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, Spain.



Prediction of response to interferon therapy is important in the management of chronic hepatitis C. Pre-therapy data are valuable but they may be inaccurate in some cases. Our aim was to investigate whether the biochemical and virological events that occur early during interferon therapy in chronic hepatitis C may predict the final result of the treatment.


ALT and serum HCV-RNA were serially measured in 53 HCV-RNA-positive patients who received a standard 6-month course of interferon therapy. Eleven patients with a sustained response, 23 who responded but subsequently relapsed and 19 who did not respond were studied. HCV-RNA was measured with a commercial kit (Amplicor HCV).


After 4 weeks of treatment, HCV-RNA became negative in 73% of sustained responders, in 26% of transient responders (p = 0.02) and in none of the non-responders. Corresponding figures after 8 weeks of therapy were 82% in sustained responders, 61% in transient responders and 9% in non-responders. The difference between sustained and transient responders at this time was not significant. After 4 weeks of therapy, 82% of sustained responders, 52% of transient responders and none of the non-responders presented normalization of alanine transferase. The difference between sustained and transient responders was not significant. Corresponding figures for normalization of alanine transferase at 8 weeks were 82%, 96% and 0% respectively. At the end of treatment, all sustained responders, 70% of transient responders and none of the non-responders had cleared HCV-RNA from serum.


A rapid normalization of alanine transferase induced by interferon therapy is associated with response, but does not differentiate between transient and permanent response. In contrast, clearance of HCV-RNA after 4 weeks of treatment, but not after 8 weeks, is significatively associated with sustained response. Testing for HCV-RNA early during interferon administration may be valuable for further decisions concerning therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C.

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