Background Patients with chronic hepatitis C virus and advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis are at risk for disease progression and hepatic decompensation.
Aim To determine the effects on hepatic histology of treatment with peginterferon alfa-2a (90 or 180 μg/week) or interferon alfa-2a (3 million units three times weekly) for 48 weeks in patients with paired biopsies.
Methods Liver biopsies were obtained at baseline and 6 months after end of treatment. Histological and virological responses were compared.
Results Patients attaining sustained virological response (n = 40) demonstrated the greatest improvements in fibrosis (−1.0, P < 0.0001) and inflammation (−0.65, P < 0.0001). Patients who cleared hepatitis C virus during treatment, but later relapsed (n = 59), experienced less improvement in fibrosis (−0.04, P < 0.0001) and inflammation (−0.14, P = 0.0768). Nonresponders (n = 85) showed no significant improvement in inflammation or fibrosis. Multiple regression analysis showed that the only factors contributing to improvement in fibrosis were sustained virological response (vs. nonresponder, P = 0.0005; vs. relapse, P = 0.7525) and body mass index ≤30 kg/m2 (P = 0.0995).
Conclusions These findings indicate that virological response to peginterferon alfa-2a improves inflammation and fibrosis in hepatitis C virus patients with advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis. Improving virological response and maintaining ideal body weight are critical for achieving optimal histological outcomes in hepatitis C virus patients.