Successful treatment of hepatitis C reinfection with interferon-α2b and ribavirin after liver transplantation

A long-term follow-up


Süleyman Yedibela, MD, Department of General Surgery, Krankenhausstr. 12, D-91054 Erlangen, Germany.


Abstract: Introduction: Recurrence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection after orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) is a virtually universal occurrence, and a significant proportion of patients develop chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis. The aim of this study was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of interferon (IFN)-α2b plus ribavirin (RIBA) in the treatment of recurrent HCV after OLT over the long term.

Material and methods: Fifteen patients with recurrent HCV infection (positive serum HCV RNA, elevated serum aminotransferases, histological activity) were started on IFN-α2b (3–6 million units administered subcutaneously three times a week) plus RIBA (800–1200 mg/day) 18±5 months after OLT. HCV RNA was determined 1, 3, 6, 9, 12 and 18 months after initiation of treatment. Liver biopsy was performed before and after therapy. The patients were followed up for a mean of 33±5 months.

Results: Thirteen patients (87%) were treated for at least 6 months and nine patients (60%) for 12 months. After 3 months, 11 patients (73%) were free from HCV RNA (<50 copies/ml); the virological end-of-treatment response was 67%. Five patients (33%) remained HCV RNA-negative 6 months posttreatment (sustained response (SR)). During the follow-up period, four patients (27%) died of liver failure, recurrent HCV after virological response, or HCC. The histological activity index improved significantly for both inflammatory activity and fibrosis, from 8.8 to 4.7 and from 7.3 to 4.8, respectively. In none of the patients were signs of rejection observed.

Conclusion: Combination therapy with IFN and RIBA in transplanted patients with chronic hepatitis C is an effective treatment that results in a high virological SR rate. It is well tolerated and leads to an improvement in histological outcome.