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Keywords:

  • hepatitis C;
  • interferon;
  • race

African Americans as a group have a higher incidence of chronic hepatitis C (CHC) than Caucasians but are often under-represented in clinical trials used to define response rates to interferon therapy. The aim of this study was to compare African Americans with Caucasians with respect to end-of-treatment response to interferon. This retrospective study had 61 African Americans and 49 Caucasians with CHC. All patients were treated for at least 12 weeks with interferon-α2b (Intron A) thrice weekly. End-of-treatment response was defined as three consecutive nondetectable HCV RNA measurements at least 1 month apart. Sustained response was defined as a negative serum HCV RNA 6 months after end of treatment. Of the 110 patients, 19 achieved an end-of-treatment response (17%) but only four achieved a sustained response (4/110=4%). Of the patients achieving a sustained response, one was genotype 1 (male Caucasian), three were genotype 2/3 with four patients having no follow-up information. The end-of-treatment response was 7% for patients with genotype 1 and 71% for genotype non-1 (< 0.005 for genotype non-1). The end-of-treatment response was significantly higher in Caucasians (14/49=31%) compared with African Americans (5/61=8%; < 0.05). A lower response rate in African Americans with genotype 1 in contrast to Caucasians was the primary reason for the difference in end-of-treatment response (1/45=2% vs. 5/33=15%, < 0.05). Hence, interferon treatment resulted in a poor sustained response rate in the group of patients representative of the urban populations with the highest prevalence of hepatitis C. A genotype other than type 1 was the strongest predictor of end-of-treatment response in patients treated but over 86% of patients in this urban clinic were genotype 1. Caucasians were more likely to respond than African Americans, especially in patients with genotype 1.