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Keywords:

  • chronic hepatitis C;
  • HCV RNA;
  • interferon alfa;
  • liver histology

Forty patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection were treated with 3 MU interferon alfa-2b given subcutaneously for 60 weeks. A biochemical response with normalization of serum alanine aminotransferase (s-ALT) levels was seen in 24 patients (60%) at treatment cessation. A sustained response with continuously normal s-ALT levels during 24 weeks of follow up was seen in 15 of these 24 patients (62%), all of whom also became HCV RNA negative in serum. Histological changes in the pre- and posttreatment liver biopsies were assessed using a numerical scoring system. Biochemical responders had a significant decrease in all four scored categories: portal inflammation, piecemeal necrosis, spotty necrosis and fibrosis. Non-responders had a significant decrease in piecemeal necrosis and spotty necrosis, whereas the scores for portal inflammation and fibrosis remained unchanged. There was no significant difference in any of the scored categories in the pretreatment biopsy between responders and non-responders. We conclude that patients suffering from chronic HCV infection who responded biochemically and virologically to interferon treatment also improved their liver histology. Necroinflammatory activity decreased to some extent in biochemical non-responders, possibly giving them some benefit from the treatment, but not to the same extent as responders. No specific histological pretreatment findings were predictive of biochemical response to interferon treatment.