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Keywords:

  • HCV genotypes;
  • polymerase chain reaction;
  • host and viral factors

Abstract

Interferon induces remission in about 50% of patients with chronic hepatitis C, but it is difficult to predict which patients will respond. Host and viral factors were evaluated for correlation with response to interferon in patients with chronic hepatitis C. Recombinant interferon alpha-2b with a total dose of 480-560 million units was given to 136 patients, of whom 74 (54%) responded. Genotypes of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in sera, I, II, III, IV, and V, were determined by poly-merase chain reaction (PCR) with type-specific primers. In 72 patients, pretreatment levels of HCV RNA were titrated by PCR in serial tenfold dilutions of RNA extracted from serum. Response to interferon occurred in 34 (40%) of 85 patients infected with HCV of genotype II, less frequently than in 22 (85%) of 26 with genotype III (P < 0.001) or in 7 (70%) of 10 with genotype IV. Of 51 patients with genotype II HCV, 6 of 8 (75%) with HCV RNA titers <106 responded, more frequently than 4 of 43 (9%) with titers ≥ 106 (P < 0.001). Responders were younger than non-responders (45.7 ± 11.7 vs. 50.3 ± 9.6 yr) and had received transfusions less frequently (26/74 or 35% vs. 37/62 or 60%, P < 0.01). Response to interferon correlated inversely with the severity of liver histopathology. These results indicate that response to interferon is influenced by HCV genotypes and pretreatment levels of HCV RNA in serum. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.