Background: Long-term renal transplant (RT) recipient mortality and graft loss increase significantly in hepatitis C virus positive (HCV-[+]ve) patients. Treatment with alpha-interferon in this population is associated with a high rate of acute rejection. The aims of this study were the evaluation of the efficacy and the safety of ribavirin monotherapy in 16 HCV-(+) RT patients (group A) matched to 32 HCV-(+) RT patients (group B) who did not receive ribavirin.
Methods: Ribavirin was started at a daily dose of 1,000 mg and then adapted to hemoglobin level. The study was scheduled for 1 year.
Results: Ribavirin monotherapy was associated with a decrease in liver enzymes and serum creatinine levels. When proteinuria was present, this decreased or disappeared. There were no significant changes in HCV viremia. There was a significant progression in liver fibrosis with no improvement in inflammation scores. Hemoglobin levels fall dramatically, despite an important support by recombinant erythropoeitin (median, 20,000 IU/wk). In 3 cases, ribavirin therapy had to be stopped. In the control group, after 1 year of follow-up, there was a significant increase in serum alanine aminotransferase and creatinine values. Proteinuria decreased in only 2 of 12 patients (P = 0.03 as compared with group A).
Conclusion: One year of ribavirin monotherapy seems to have, at best, no beneficial effect on liver histology, although it improves liver enzyme levels. Despite its efficiency to dramatically decrease proteinuria, its impact on renal function remains unknown.