Hepatitis C virus relapse was suppressed by long-term self-injection of low-dose interferon in patients with chronic hepatitis C after pegylated interferon plus ribavirin treatment


  • Conflict of interest: Shuhei Nishiguchi received financial support from Chugai Pharmaceutical, MSD, Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma, Ajinomoto Pharmaceuticals, and Otsuka Pharmaceutical. Hiroko Iijima and Hiroyasu Imanishi received financial support from Chugai Pharmaceutical. The remaining authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.



The recommended treatment for chronic hepatitis C is a combination of pegylated interferon (PEG IFN) plus ribavirin (RBV). However, the sustained virological response (SVR) rate of PEG IFN-RBV therapy was approximately 50% in patients with genotype 1b and a high viral load. Thus, we compared the efficiencies and side-effects of PEG IFN-RBV and self-injected low-dose natural (n) IFN-α in patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV).


A prospective, multicenter, open-label study was conducted in 12 Japanese institutions. A total of 129 patients with chronic hepatitis C and no detectable HCV after 24–72 weeks of PEG IFN-RBV treatment were assigned to the control (n = 82) or treated (n = 47) group. Treated patients received 3 million units of nIFN-α 2–3 times/week over 96 weeks. The groups were compared regarding treatment efficiency and side-effects.


Significant treatment success regarding virus negativation rates was found, with 89% and 73% for the treated and control groups, respectively (P = 0.039). In contrast, there was no difference in relapse rate between the groups 24 weeks after the 96-week nIFN-α treatment (P = 0.349). However, when early viral responders and late viral responders (LVR) were separated, LVR patients responded significantly to the treatment with 90% sustained virological response, compared to 53% for the control group (P = 0.044). The side-effects of nIFN-α were less than that of PEG IFN-RBV treatment.


Self-injected nIFN-α has larger benefits than prolonged PEG IFN-RBV for chronic hepatitis C patients with high viral loads of genotype 1b who fail to achieve early viral response during initial combination treatment.