How soon can a virological sustained response be determined after withdrawal of interferon therapy in chronic hepatitis C?
Reported for NATAP by Tokyo-Chiba Hepatitis Research Group. Shiratori Y, Kato N, Yoshida H, Imazeki F, Okano K, Yokosuka O, Omata M Department of Internal Medicine (II), University of Tokyo, Japan. J Gastroenterol Hepatol 1999 Jan;14(1):79-84

Hepatitis C virus (HCV)-RNA status and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels determined shortly after interferon (IFN) therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C do not predict long-term response. To determine the virological sustained response after the completion of IFN therapy, HCV-RNA was measured at the end of treatment and at 3-4 months and 12 months after the completion of therapy in 537 patients with chronic hepatitis C. In 347 patients, HCV-RNA was not detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) at the completion of therapy and 175 of these patients (50%) were still PCR negative 12 months later. In contrast, of the 180 patients who were HCV-RNA negative at 3-4 months after completion of therapy, 99% remained negative at 12 months.

Normal ALT levels were found in 80, 93 and 95% of patients who were negative for HCV-RNA either at the end of treatment or at 3-4 months and 12 months after the completion of therapy, respectively. Of patients who were HCV-RNA positive, 30, 15 and 20% were found to have normal ALT levels at the same respective time points. To determine a sustained virological response shortly after the completion of therapy, serum HCV-RNA was serially examined in 66 patients negative for HCV-RNA at the end of therapy. Of 31 patients who relapsed, HCV-RNA reappeared in 33, 80, 97 and 100% of patients by 1, 2, 4 and 8 weeks after the completion of therapy.

In conclusion, a sustained virological response could be determined with 97 and 99% certainty at 4 weeks and at 3-4 months after the completion of therapy, respectively.