Early monotherapy with pegylated interferon alpha-2b for acute hepatitis C infection: The HEP-NET acute-HCV-II study


  • See Editorial on Page 221

  • Potential conflict of interest: Dr. Zeuzem is a consultant for and has received unrestricted grants from Roche and Schering. Dr. Wiegand has received travel grants from Schering. Drs. Jaeckel and Comberg have received travel grants from Essex Pharma. Dr. Wedemeyer has received research and travel grants from Essex Pharma. Dr. Manns is a consultant for and has received research and travel grants from Schering. Dr. Buggisch is a consultant for, has received research and travel grants from, and has conducted clinical trials for Roche. He has also been a consultant and conducted clinical trials for Schering-Plough.


Early treatment of acute hepatitis C with interferon alpha-2b for 24 weeks prevents chronic infection in almost all patients. Because pegylated interferons have replaced conventional interferon in the therapy of chronic hepatitis C, the aim of this study was to analyze the efficacy of an early treatment of acute hepatitis C with peginterferon alfa- 2b. Between February 2001 and February 2004, 89 individuals with acute HCV infection were recruited at 53 different centers in Germany. Patients received 1.5 μg/kg peginterferon alfa-2b for 24 weeks; treatment was initiated after a median of 76 days after infection (range 14-150). End-of-treatment response and sustained virological response were defined as undetectable HCV RNA at the end of therapy and after 24 weeks of follow-up, respectively. In the total study population, virological response was 82% at the end of treatment and 71% at the end of follow-up. Of 89 individuals, 65 (73%) were adherent to therapy, receiving 80% of the interferon dosage within 80% of the scheduled treatment duration. End-of-treatment and sustained virological response rates in this subpopulation were 94% and 89%, respectively. A maximum alanine aminotransferase level of more than 500 U/L prior to therapy was the only factor associated with successful treatment. In conclusion, in acute HCV infection, early treatment with peginterferon α2b leads to high virological response rates in individuals who are adherent to treatment. The high number of dropouts underlines the importance of thorough patient selection and close monitoring during therapy. Thus, future studies should identify factors predicting spontaneous viral clearance to avoid unnecessary therapy. (HEPATOLOGY 2006;43:250–256.)