Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, including its sequelae, is an important healthcare problem in Taiwan. The seroprevalence of HCV infection in first-time blood donors in Taiwan is 1.2% and an estimated 2-5% in the general population, with a great geographic variation. Genotype 1b is the most prevalent HCV genotype in Taiwan, with a prevalence rate of 50-70%. An increasing incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is mainly attributed to HCV infection, while the declining role of HBV is observed in Taiwan. The seroprevalence of hepatitis B surface antigen among patients with HCC was 90% three decades ago, while recently, chronic HCV infection accounts for more than 30% of HCC patients in the National Taiwan University Hospital. With the advent of a combined conventional interferon (IFN)-alpha and ribavirin therapy, to which Taiwan has contributed in the early study phase, the sustained virological response rate has been greatly improved compared with IFN monotherapy. The sustained virological response rate in Taiwanese patients treated with the combination therapy for 6 months has reached up to 50-60%, which is higher than that reported in patients from the Western countries receiving a 12-month regimen. It is necessary to search for the underlying mechanisms for the better treatment outcome with IFN plus ribavirin combination therapy in Taiwanese patients. Whether long-term effects of IFN plus ribavirin therapy can reduce the incidence of HCC needs to be established.
Copyright (c) 2006 S. Karger AG, Basel.