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Keywords:

  • cirrhosis;
  • elderly patient;
  • genotype 2;
  • hepatitis C virus;
  • low viral load;
  • pegylated interferon-α-2a

Aim

Elderly and/or cirrhotic patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) are at high risk of adverse effects during interferon therapy. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the efficacy, safety and predictive factors for sustained virological response (SVR) of low-dose pegylated interferon-α-2a (PEG IFN-α-2a) monotherapy in elderly and/or cirrhotic patients with HCV genotype-2 or genotype-1 low level infection.

Methods

Sixty-four elderly (≥65 years) and/or cirrhotic patients with HCV genotype-2 or genotype-1 low level (<5 logIU/mL) infection underwent low-dose PEG IFN-α-2a (90 μg/week) monotherapy for 24 weeks. Sixty patients were available for efficacy assessment.

Results

SVR was achieved in 78.3%. SVR rates according to genotype-1 low, genotype-2 low and genotype-2 high viral load were 90.0%, 87.1% and 57.9%, respectively. The discontinuation rate was 12.5%. PEG IFN-α-2a was interrupted or discontinued in four patients because of severe thrombocytopenia (<25 000/mm3). The baseline platelet counts of all these patients were less than 70 000/mm3. On univariate analysis of factors contributing to SVR, significant differences were noted in viral load, platelet count, γ-glutamyltransferase, ferritin, α-fetoprotein level and rapid viral response (RVR). On multivariate analysis, RVR was the only independent factor (P = 0.010, odds ratio = 47.27). The positive and negative SVR-predictive values based on RVR were 95% and 82%, respectively.

Conclusion

Low-dose PEG IFN-α-2a monotherapy was effective and tolerable in elderly and/or cirrhotic patients with genotype-2 or genotype-1 low HCV level infection. However, a baseline platelet count of more than 70 000/mm3 is needed for safety. RVR can predict SVR accurately.