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Abstract

An analysis of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Liver Transplant Registry data shows that the greater the viral load at the time of transplantation, the more rapidly clinically evident posttransplantation hepatitis C virus (HCV) disease recurs. These data suggest that aggressive pretransplantation treatment of HCV might delay recurrent posttransplantation HCV disease and enhance posttransplantation survival. We have taken an aggressive approach to treating HCV infection pretransplantation with the use of high-dose (5 MU) daily interferon α2b in an effort to clear the virus before transplantation. A total of 27 patients with HCV-induced cirrhosis were seen and underwent transplantation at Loyola University Medical Center (Maywood, IL) between February 1997 and December 2001. There were 22 men and five women, with a mean age of 56 ± 2 years. The majority had genotype 1 disease (67%). Of the 27 patients, 7 had a baseline platelet count <50,000/mm3 and were excluded from interferon therapy. The remaining 20 were treated for a mean of 14 ± 2.5 (range, 0.5 to 33.5) months before orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT). Twelve (60%) responded to the therapy with serologic clearance of HCV before OLT. The mean time from initiation of therapy to the first negative qualitative polymerase chain reaction was 4.5 ± 1.5 (range, 0.5 to 12) months. Four of the 12 patients in whom the virus cleared did not have evidence of HCV recurrence after OLT, representing 20% of those treated and 33% of those who had HCV clearance before OLT. The duration of post-OLT freedom from HCV infection in these individuals has been 33.6 ± 11.3 (range, 0 to 47.4) months. These data suggest that with careful supervision, cirrhotic patients can tolerate high-dose interferon. In addition, a viral clearance can be achieved in a significant number of cirrhotic patients with high-dose interferon. One third of patients, in whom the HCV cleared before OLT, did not have evidence of disease recurrence after OLT. It is thus anticipated that with early and aggressive pre-OLT HCV therapy, possibly with the use of pegylated interferon, even better results may be obtained.