Interferon-α and ribavirin for the treatment of recurrent hepatitis C after liver transplantation

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Background. Initial studies utilizing interferon-α and ribavirin for the treatment of recurrent hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection after liver transplantation showed promising results. Here we report our single-center experience using this combination therapy. Methods. Liver transplant recipients with recurrent HCV (elevated serum aminotransferases, positive serum HCV RNA, and biopsy-proven hepatitis without rejection) received interferon-α (1.5-3 million units subcutaneously three times a week) and ribavirin (400-1000 mg p.o. daily) for 12 months or more. Serum aminotransferases, HCV RNA, and severity of hepatitis were followed. Results. Thirty-two patients have been treated for at least 3 months, including 13 who have been on 12 or more months of therapy. Three died from allograft failure due to recurrent HCV. Dose reductions of interferon-α and/or ribavirin occurred in 22 patients. Thirteen had their medications permanently discontinued for severe adverse effects. Twenty-six patients (81%) had a biochemical response (BR; normalization of serum aminotransferases) after 3 months. End-of-treatment and sustained BR were 77% and 71%, respectively. Mean viral loads decreased 68-77%; however, only three patients became serum HCV RNA negative. After 12 months of therapy, no histological improvement was observed in 11 patients who were biopsied. Patients who received mycophenolate mofetil or daclizumab had a less likelihood of achieving a BR. Conclusions. A significant number of patients did not tolerate interferon-α or ribavirin. Although BR was excellent and mean viral loads decreased significantly, virological clearance was poor and no histological improvement was noted. A more efficacious treatment with less adverse effects for recurrent HCV after liver transplantation is needed.

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This article was published in Transplantation, Volume 71, Issue 5, Pages 678-686.

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