Hepatitis C viral RNA titers in serum prior to, during, and after oral treatment with ribavirin for chronic hepatitis C



Ten patients with biopsy verified chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection were treated with oral ribavirin at a dose of 1,000–1,200 mg per day in two divided doses for 12 weeks. Serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels and hepatitis C viral ribonucleic acid (RNA) levels in serum were followed prior to, during, and 12 weeks posttreatment. ALT levels decreased significantly in all patients during therapy from a mean level of 3.21 μkat/l (range 1.22 to 7.79) before, to 1.25 μkat/l (range 0.78 to 2.04) at the end of treatment (P < 0.005). Hereafter, relapse to pretreatment levels was seen within 12 weeks after treatment stop. The hepatitis C viral RNA levels decreased from a mean 10 log titer of 4.1 (range 1–6) before treatment to 3.4 (range 1–5) at treatment stop. Five patients did not change their HCV RNA titers during treatment. Twelve weeks posttreatment only 3 patients had lower titers than prior to treatment. We conclude that oral ribavirin seems to reduce the viral load, at least temporarily, in some patients with chronic viremic HCV infection. Further studies are needed to evaluate fully the effect of oral ribavirin on chronic HCV infection.