Objectives: Interferon-alpha (IFN) may have undesirable effects on a functioning graft. The aim of this study was to evaluate IFN treatment in kidney transplant candidates during the hemodialysis period as well as the results after transplantation.
Methods: A total of 29 noncirrhotic hemodialysis patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection (based on long-term rise in ALT, HCV serology, HCV RNA by polymerase chain reaction methods, and histological evidence) were included. Tolerability to IFN treatment, pre- and posttransplantation therapeutic results, and long-term outcome were recorded. IFN regimen consisted of 3 million units (MU) times per week after hemodialysis sessions for 6 months, followed by 1.5 MU after each hemodialysis session for an additional 6 months. All patients gave informed consent for participation.
Results: IFN therapy was fairly well tolerated. Adverse effects due to IFN toxicity, renal disease, or causes related to the immunological properties of IFN were observed in 24% of patients. At the end of treatment, ALT had normalized in 23/28 patients (82.1%), and HCV RNA had cleared in 23/28 patients (82.1%). During follow-up, HCV RNA was persistently negative in 18 patients (64%, including transplant recipients). A total of 14 patients (nine HCV RNA-negative) received a kidney transplant. Mean follow-up after the procedure was 41 +/- 28 months. In all, 12 patients had a functioning graft, one had acute vascular rejection, and one died of carcinoma. All transplanted patients maintained normal ALT levels, and eight remained HCV RNA-negative.
Conclusions: Treatment results in our study population were better than those observed in the general population. The long-term response achieved, which was maintained after transplantation, supports the use of IFN for HCV hepatitis in kidney transplant candidates under hemodialysis.