Background: Antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis D (delta) is not yet satisfactory, although it appears to be the only means to alter the progressive natural course of chronic hepatitis D virus (HDV) infection.
Aim: To assess safety and efficacy, evaluated by virological, biochemical and histological end-of-treatment (EOT) and end-of-follow-up (EOF) response to peg-interferon α-2b 1.5 µg/kg body weight weekly in a Romanian cohort of naïve patients with chronic hepatitis delta.
Results: 49 Caucasian patients (55.1% men, 44.9% females) with a mean age of 37.95 years received study medication; per-protocol population consisted of 36 subjects. Virological EOT response was present in 33.3% and EOF response was maintained in 25% of patients. 50% of study population showed normalization of ALT level at EOT and 25% at EOF. A combined biochemical and virological response was observed in 19.4% of patients at EOT and in 16.7% at EOF. At baseline, the necroinflammation quantified by histological activity index (HAI) score was 9.72 and the mean fibrosis score was 2.03; there was a significant decrease of HAI score to 7.44 (p=0.01) at EOT, but not for fibrosis score (1.33, p=0.37). However, only 8.3% of patients at EOT and 19.4% at EOF had progressive histological disease.
Conclusions: Treatment with peg-interferon α-2b succeeded in obtaining a negative HVD RNA in 25% of patients after 104 weeks of follow-up, although combined biochemical and virological response was present in only 16.7%. Necroinflammation decreased significantly in treated patients. Longer treatment periods with pegylated interferon or combination regimen peg interferon-nucleotide analogues should be tested in order to increase efficacy.