The only beneficial agent for the treatment of chronic delta hepatitis (CDH) is interferon (IFN). However, there is no consensus on the best dosage or duration of IFN therapy. As ribavirin (RBV) increases the sustained response when added to IFN in chronic hepatitis C, probably because of its immunomodulatory effect, we aimed to investigate the efficacy of 2-year IFN treatment and whether RBV had any additive effect to IFN in CDH.
Methods: Patients (n = 31) with CDH were randomized with a 1:2 ratio as 10 patients (3 females/7 males, age 39 +/- 9) receiving IFN monotherapy (9 MU IFN-alpha2a three times weekly) and 21 patients (8 females/13 males, age 38 +/- 11) receiving IFN plus RBV for 2 years (IFN at the same dosage and RBV at 1000-1200 mg/day). Alanine transferase normalization and hepatitis delta virus (HDV) RNA negativity at the end of treatment and at the end of the follow-up period (at least 6 months following 2-year treatment) were primary endpoints of the study. In addition, virological response and biochemical response were determined separately.
Results: Eight of 31 patients (25%) had cirrhosis in liver biopsies. Six patients from the IFN monotherapy group and 12 patients from the combination group had biochemical response. Five patients from the IFN monotherapy group and 11 patients from the combination group had virological response at the end of therapy. Two patients from the IFN group and five patients from the combination group had sustained biochemical response at the end of the follow-up period. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) activations with HBV DNA positivity were observed in two patients (one from the IFN monotherapy group, one from the combination group). Two patients (20%) in the IFN group and five patients (23.5%) in IFN plus RBV group remained as virological responders at the end of the follow-up period (P > 0.05). None of the patients with liver cirrhosis were responsive at the end of the follow-up period.
Conclusion: Almost 20% of the patients with CDH were responsive to 2-year IFN treatment at the end of the follow-up period and no additional effect of RBV was observed. Patients with advanced liver disease failed to respond to treatment.