Pegylated interferon-α monotherapy leads to low response rates in HIV-infected patients with acute hepatitis C

Joop E Arends, Sander van Assen, Cari J Stek, Annemarie Mj Wensing, Justin H Fransen, Ingrid M Schellens, Sanne Nm Spijkers, Tania Mudrikova, Debbie van Baarle, Herman G Sprenger, Andy Im Hoepelman
Antiviral Therapy 2011, 16 (7): 979-88

BACKGROUND: Despite a rising incidence of acute HCV in patients infected with HIV, the optimal therapeutic strategy (pegylated interferon-α [PEG-IFN-α] monotherapy or in combination with ribavirin) is still under debate.

METHODS: A total of 23 HIV-infected patients were prospectively diagnosed with acute HCV and treated with PEG-IFN-α2a monotherapy (180 μg/week) for 24 or 48 weeks. Add-on ribavirin was allowed from week 4 of therapy onwards. There were three patients who were not included for different reasons. Blood samples were routinely drawn for viral load measurement and IL28B polymorphism analysis.

RESULTS: Spontaneous viral clearance occurred in 1 (4%) patient. Nineteen patients (13 genotype 1 and 6 genotype 4) received treatment with PEG-IFN-α monotherapy (3 with add-on ribavirin) resulting in a rapid virological response (HCV RNA<50 IU/ml at week 4) in 7 (37%) patients. A sustained virological response (SVR) was reached in 7 (37%) patients, whereas 9 (47%) patients were null-responders to treatment (that is, <2 log₁₀ drop in HCV RNA at week 12 of therapy). The unfavourable G allele of the IL28B polymorphism rs8099917 was detected in 66% of the non-responders. In case of re-emergence of HCV viraemia after treatment discontinuation, sequence analysis of quasispecies confirmed an HCV relapse in 3 patients while 2 patients were re-infected by their previously non-responding partner.

CONCLUSIONS: PEG-IFN-α monotherapy resulted in a low SVR rate and a high percentage of null-response, whereas non-SVR was associated with a polymorphism in the IL28B gene (rs8099917).

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