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Abstract

Ribavirin and interferon (IFN) are an effective treatment in 30% to 60% of patients with chronic hepatitis C. Whether they are also effective in dually infected patients with hepatitis B and C is unknown. Twenty-four patients with chronic hepatitis seropositive for both hepatitis B surface antigen and antibody to HCV received ribavirin 1,200 mg daily for 6 months, together with 6 million units (MU) IFN-α 2a thrice weekly for 12 weeks and then 3 MU for another 12 weeks. Serum HCV RNA was positive in 21 patients (group I, serum HBV DNA positive in 17 patients) and negative in 3 patients (group II, all HBV DNA positive) by Amplicor (Cobas Amplicor Monitor, Roche Diagnostics, Branchburg, NJ). Serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT), HCV RNA, and hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA were monitored regularly for 12 months. Another 30 patients with chronic hepatitis C alone receiving the same regimen, served as controls. The serum HCV clearance rate in group I patients (43%) was comparable with that in controls (60%, P = .63) 24 weeks posttreatment. The serum ALT normalization rate in group I and group II patients was 43% and 0%, respectively, 24 weeks posttreatment. After treatment, resurgence of HBV and HCV was encountered in 4 group I patients and 1 group II patient, respectively. In conclusion, in hepatitis B and C dually infected patients, combination of IFN with ribavirin can achieve a sustained HCV clearance rate comparable with hepatitis C alone. In dually infected patients, the treatment may alter the dominant, ruling hepatitis virus.