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Summary

Background : Guidelines for treatment of patients infected with hepatitis C virus genotype 4 are not available.

Aim : To perform a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing peginterferon plus ribavirin with interferon plus ribavirin treatment in treatment-naïve patients infected with chronic hepatitis C virus genotype 4.

Methods : The outcome measure was sustained virologic response. The measure of association employed was relative risk calculated by the random-effect model, with heterogeneity, sensitivity and subgroup analyses.

Results : Of the 565 studies screened, six randomized controlled trials including 424 patients (peginterferon plus ribavirin 219, interferon plus ribavirin 205) were analysed. Duration of therapy was 1 year in all trials. Sustained virological response obtained with peginterferon plus ribavirin (55%) was significantly higher than with interferon plus ribavirin (30%) [relative risk, 1.71 (95% confidence interval, 1.15–2.56); P = 0.0088]. In the subgroup analyses, sustained virological response in trials using standard-dose ribavirin (1000 or 1200 mg/day) was 72% as against 45.8% in trials using low-dose ribavirin (800 mg/day) (P = 0.01). Further sub-group analyses for treatment duration, body weight, viral load and cirrhosis could not be performed because of lack of relevant data.

Conclusion : Treatment-naïve patients infected with hepatitis C virus genotype 4 should be treated with peginterferon plus standard-dose ribavirin for 1 year, with an expected sustained virological response rate of 72%.