Aim: There is little information available on the efficacy of pegylated interferon (PEG IFN) therapy for children with chronic hepatitis C. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of PEG IFN-α2a monotherapy for children infected by chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Methods: From 2004–2006, we conducted a prospective, open-label, multicenter study of 22 patients aged 4–18 years, including eight with genotype 1 and 14 with genotype 2. None had previously received IFN. The patients were treated with s.c. PEG IFN-α2a at a dose of 3 µg/kg once a week for 48 weeks. Rapid virological response (RVR) was defined as: undetectable serum HCV RNA at week 4; early viral response (EVR) as a 2 or more log reduction or undetectable serum HCV RNA at week 12; and sustained viral response (SVR) as undetectable serum HCV RNA at 24 weeks after the cessation of treatment.
Results: SVR was achieved in 10 (45%) of the 22 patients (three with genotype 1, seven with genotype 2). Retrospectively, the patients with SVR included five with RVR (one with genotype 1, four with genotype 2) and five with EVR (two with genotype 1, three with genotype 2). PEG IFN-α2a monotherapy was well tolerated, except in one patient in whom alanine aminotransferase activity flared (>500 IU/L) during treatment.
Conclusion: The efficacy of PEG IFN-α2a monotherapy in children is similar to that for adults, while tolerability seems to be better in children than in adults.