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Virus and host factors are both important determinants of response to interferon treatment among patients with chronic hepatitis C


Storr Liver Unit, Westmead Hospital, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia.


SUMMARY. Virus and host factors have both been linked to the response to interferon treatment among patients with chronic hepatitis C but their relative importance and potential interactions are unclear. Hepatitis C virus genotype and level of viraemia were determined in pretreatment sera from 65 Australian patients treated with interferon-α2b (IFN-α2b). 3 MU tiw for 6 months. Hepatitis C viraemia was quantitated by a competitive reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method and genotype was determined by a line probe assay. By univariate analysis, there were positive associations between initial (short-term) responses to IFN treatment and younger age (P= 0.004). absence of cirrhosis (P= 0.01). and injecting drug use as risk factor for infection (P= 0.05) but not gender, duration of infection, or level of viraemia. Genotype appeared to be important (P= 0.06) but failed to reach statistical significance. By multivariate analysis, absence of cirrhosis was the only significant independent predictor of treatment response (P= 0.01). Among initial responders, the factors associated with long-term response were the pretreatment HCV RNA titre and the duration of infection. There was a close association between viral genotype, but not viral load, and the severity of liver disease. An interplay of factors determines the outcome of a 6-month course of interferon treatment for hepatitis C. Severity of liver disease, but not the viral load, is the most crucial determinant of initial response to interferon, and histological severity appeared to be influenced by the viral genotype. The level of hepatitis C virus (HCV) viraemia and the duration of infection are independent determinants of long-term response by affecting the relapse rate after interferon treatment.