In a randomized controlled trial, 41 chronic hepatitis B virus carriers were allocated, by opening numbered computerized randomization envelopes, to receive recombinant interferon-α2A at three different doses: 2.5; 5.0, and 10.0 mU per m2. Thirty-two patients received treatment (6 for 3 months, 26 for 6 months), and 9 patients were controls (received no treatment). Ninety-three per cent of our patients were homosexual, and 41% had anti-HTLV-III in their serum
None of the control patients lost HBeAg. In contrast, six of the anti-HTLV-III-negative patients (33%) responded to treatment (p < 0.02): five of these responders were homosexual (p < 0.05). The response rate was greatest (44%) in the anti-HTLV-III-negative patients who received 10 mU per m2 of recombinant interferon-α2A. None of the anti-HTLV-III-positive patients responded to treatment. The percentage reduction of hepatitis B virus DNA was significantly less in the anti-HTLV-III-positive group in comparison to the anti-HTLV-III-negative group at 1 and 4 months of treatment and at 3 months after the end of treatment (p < 0.05). These patients were younger (33 vs. 42 years, p < 0.02), had lower mean baseline AST values (42 vs. 80 IU per liter, p < 0.02) and tended to have milder histo-logical disease
Homosexual men with HBeAg-positive chronic liver disease who are anti-HTLV-III-positive appear to be less responsive to the direct antiviral and immunomodulatory effects of recombinant interferon-α2A. This may be due to the subclinical immunosuppressive effects of co-infection with HTLV-III.