Background: Pegylated interferon given for 24 or 48 weeks constitutes the most effective initial therapy for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. It has been shown that viral load at week 2 appears the best time for predicting response to treatment. The objectives of this study were to assess whether the hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA viral decline is predictive of sustained virological response (SVR) and to determine the best time for predicting complete response in our cohort of naïve patients treated with pegylated interferon alpha-2a (Peg-IFN alpha-2a) and ribavirin.
Results: Twenty patients treated with Peg-IFN alpha-2a and ribavirin for 48 weeks were studied. Six months after the end of treatment, a SVR (negative HCV RNA measured by PCR six months after the end of therapy) was obtained in 9 patients. Samples were obtained before and at week 2, 4, 8, and 12. At the end of week 2, viral load decreased more than 1.39 log in 8 out of the 9 patients with SVR and in 1 out of the 11 other patients. When we considered the viral load reduction from baseline to each week of treatment, week 2 appeared to be the best point time for predicting SVR, with a sensitivity of 91% (95%CI: 59;99), a specificity of 89% (52;98), a positive predictive value of 91% (59;99) and a negative predictive value of 89% (57;98).
Conclusion: During treatment with Peg-IFN alpha-2a plus ribavirin in genotype 1 patients, when the main objective of the treatment is viral eradication, viral kinetics showed that week 2 appeared to be the best time point for predicting SVR. Our results must be further confirmed on a larger cohort.