Neuropsychiatric effects and type of IFN-alpha in chronic hepatitis C

J Interferon Cytokine Res. 2001 May;21(5):273-8. doi: 10.1089/107999001300177457.


Chronic hepatitis is often associated with neuropsychiatric disorders. Interferon (IFN) is the drug most widely used to treat this disease, and its side effects, such as depression, often involve the central nervous system (CNS). Symptoms include a slowing down of psychomotor functions, loss of interest, frontal lobe dysfunction, parkinsonism, and delirium. The occurrence of these complications calls for dropping out of IFN treatment or for a significant dose reduction and administration of antidepressants. Efficacy and side effects vary on the basis of the IFN type employed. The aim of our study was to evaluate if the frequency, form, and degree of depression induced are related to the type of IFN employed. We studied 96 patients with chronic hepatitis C. Our study series was divided into four groups according to the type of IFN-alpha administered. Depression degree was clinically evaluated using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D). All patients were tested before treatment and 1, 3, and 6 months (15 days after the end of treatment) later. Our results showed that the type of IFN used seemed to influence the depression onset rate, with the leukocyte type inducing the lowest level of depression. However, when a number of symptoms associated with the depression were considered, the results of other types of IFN-alpha were found to be better. Use of the most suitable type of IFN-alpha could thus lead to more personalized treatment, with fewer side effects. The type of IFN used seems to influence the psychological side effects and the adaptation rate to therapy. It would be appropriate to choose the type of IFN on the basis of a neuropsychiatric assessment carried out before treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / chemically induced
  • Depression / chemically induced
  • Female
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / complications
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / psychology
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha / adverse effects*
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Psychomotor Agitation / etiology
  • Psychomotor Disorders / chemically induced
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / chemically induced
  • Weight Loss


  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Recombinant Proteins