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Keywords:

  • chronic hepatitis D;
  • hepatitis B virus;
  • hepatitis D virus;
  • nucleoside analogues;
  • pegylated interferon-α;
  • quantification of HDV RNA;
  • standard interferon-α;
  • treatment

Summary.  Despite recent advances in the treatment of chronic viral hepatitis, therapy of chronic hepatitis D is not yet satisfactory. The only option currently available is interferon-α (IFN), whose efficacy is related to the dose and duration of treatment. However, the rate of sustained hepatitis D virus (HDV) clearance after a 1-year course with high doses of standard IFN is low. Better results have recently been reported with pegylated IFN both in IFN-naïve and in previous nonresponders to standard IFN, suggesting the use of pegylated IFN as a first-line therapy in chronic hepatitis D. Nucleoside analogues that inhibit hepatitis B virus (HBV) are ineffective against HDV and combination therapy with lamivudine or ribavirin has not shown significant advantages over monotherapy with either standard or pegylated IFN. Because the ultimate goal of treatment is eradication of both HDV and HBV, in responders IFN therapy should be continued as long as possible until the loss of hepatitis B surface antigen, adjusting the dose to patient tolerance. However, because side-effects are common, continuous monitoring is mandatory. Although the first results obtained with pegylated IFN have been encouraging, the rate of sustained virological response is still low and the rate of relapse high, emphasizing the need for developing novel classes of antivirals specifically interfering with the life cycle of this unique virus.