Background: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is associated with renal manifestations, such as membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN) with or without cryoglobulinaemia, membranous glomerulonephritis (MGN) and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). Standard treatment for HCV is interferon and ribavirin, but in renal insufficiency ribavirin has been contraindicated due to fear of side effects.
Methods: Seven patients, two with cryoglobulinaemia, vasculitic manifestations and glomerulonephritis (GN), four with MPGN and one with FSGS were treated with a combination of interferon and ribavirin. Two patients were given pegylated interferon and ribavirin. All patients had at presentation renal insufficiency, with a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) between 10 and 65 ml/min. One patient had HCV genotype 1, the remainder 2 and 3. Duration of therapy was according to genotype (6-12 months). Ribavirin in plasma was monitored by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to avoid over-dosing, aiming at a target concentration of 10-15 micromol/l. The main side effect of ribavirin, haemolytic anaemia, was monitored closely with haemoglobin controls.
Results: Six of seven patients became HCV-RNA-PCR negative and four of seven have maintained both virological and renal remission. One of seven has maintained virological and partial renal remission. One patient did not tolerate interferon, but is in renal remission with low-dose ribavirin. One vasculitis patient responded with complete remission, but relapsed virologically and had a minor vasculitic flare after 9 months. Only one patient with vasculitis had low-dose immunosuppression in addition to anti-viral therapy. Average daily ribavirin dose was 200-800 mg. Ribavirin-induced anaemia was managed in five of seven patients with low-dose iron and erythropoietin between 4000 and 20 000 IU/week.
Conclusions: Interferon and ribavirin can with reasonable safety be used in HCV-related vasculitis and GN irrespective of renal function.