Therapeutic options in hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related vasculitis may target the viral trigger using antiviral therapy [pegylated interferon plus ribavirin (PEG-IFN/RBV)], and/or the downstream B-cell arm of autoimmunity with rituximab (RTX). To date, no study has compared the efficacy of RTX combined with PEG-IFN/RBV on biomarkers of liver insufficiency in patients with severe liver fibrosis. Twenty-eight untreated HCV-related vasculitis patients with severe liver fibrosis (Metavir F3-F4) were included: 14 patients received RTX plus PEG-IFN/RBV and 14 patients PEG-IFN/RBV. The main clinical and biological data were recorded and compared at baseline, month 3 (M3), M12 and M24 of follow-up. Baseline epidemiological, clinical, virological and immunological features were similar between the groups. The virological response did not differ between cases and controls. The alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level and HCV viral load did not increase in patients treated with RTX. Serum albumin levels increased in patients treated with RTX at M3 and M6 (108% and 111% of baseline value; P = 0.06 and P = 0.13), whereas it was stable in patients treated without RTX. FibroTest values decreased from 0.70 at baseline to 0.59 at M3 (P = 0.5) and returned to 0.69 at M24 in the RTX-PEG-IFN/RBV group, whereas they were stable in the PEG-IFN/RBV group. RTX is safe in patients with severe HCV liver fibrosis and vasculitis. No beneficial effects of RTX were evidenced on liver fibrosis progression, but we found interesting correlations with the serum albumin level, FibroTest values and B-cell count.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.