Breakthrough during recombinant interferon alfa therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus infection: Prevalence, etiology, and management



Recombinant interferon alfa (r-IFNα2) has been shown to normalize the aminotransferase levels in approximately 50% of patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV). Few patients experience a relapse during the treatment, in spite of a complete initial response (breakthrough). We studied 191 HCV Ab-positive patients with histologically proven chronic hepatitis. All of them were treated with r-IFNα2 (3 MU three times a week). A complete response was seen in 54.4%. However, 12 of 104 responders experienced a breakthrough. At the time of breakthrough, neutralizing IFN antibodies were positive in 6 of 12 patients. Binding IFN antibodies were positive in all of these 12 patients. Continued treatment with r-IFNα2, even at higher doses, did not restore the previous response in any patient. All of them were then switched to natural lymphoblastoid IFN, and this rapidly restored a complete response in all of the patients.