Background: Combination anti-viral therapy achieves a sustained virological response (defined as HCV-RNA negativity 6 months after the end of therapy) of 56% of patients with chronic hepatitis C. Little is known about long-term durability of HCV-RNA negativity in patient treated with pegylated interferon.
Aim: To evaluate the durability of virologic response in patients with sustained virological response to anti-viral therapy treated at our centre.
Methods: A total of 187 sustained virological responses (50% genotype 1, 42% genotype 2 or 3 and 8% genotype 4; 20% with cirrhosis) with a follow-up of >12 months post-therapy were studied. Twelve patients received monotherapy with interferon-alpha2a or -2b. One hundred and seventy-five received combination therapy with ribavirin and standard interferon-alpha (n = 73) or pegylated interferon-alpha2a or 2b (n = 102). Qualitative serum HCV-RNA was tested by COBAS AMPLICOR HCV test, v2.0.
Results: Median follow-up time was 29 months (range 12-172). Recurrence of HCV infection was not observed in any of the 187 sustained virological responders. Alanine aminotransferase values were normal in 90% and two patients showed minimal elevation of alpha-fetoprotein levels.
Conclusions: No recurrence of HCV infection was seen in any patient. Thus, long-term prognosis in chronic hepatitis C patients with a sustained virological response to therapy with pegylated interferon +/- ribavirin is promising, but long-term studies need to continue.