Dual therapy with peg-interferon and ribavirin in thalassemia major patients with chronic HCV infection: Is there still an indication?

Dig Liver Dis. 2016 Jun;48(6):650-5. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2016.02.004. Epub 2016 Feb 21.


Background: Iron overload and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection together can lead to chronic liver damage in thalassemia major (TM) patients.

Aims: We investigated viral, genetic, and disease factors influencing sustained virological response (SVR) after peg-interferon and ribavirin therapy in TM patients with HCV infection.

Methods: We analyzed 230 TM patients with HCV infection (mean age 36.0±6.3 years; 59.1% genotype 1; 32.2% genotype 2; 3.4% genotype 3; and 5.3% genotype 4; 28.7% carried CC allele of rs12979860 in IL28B locus; 79.6% had chronic hepatitis and 20.4% cirrhosis; 63.5% naive and 36.5% previously treated with interferon alone) treated in 14 Italian centers.

Results: By multivariate regression analysis SVR was independently associated with CC allele of IL28B SNP (OR 2.98; CI 95% 1.29-6.86; p=0.010) and rapid virologic response (OR 11.82; CI 95% 3.83-36.54; p<0.001) in 136 genotype 1 patients. Combining favorable variables the probability of SVR ranged from 31% to 93%. In genotype 2 patients, only RVR (OR 8.61; CI 95% 2.85-26.01; p<0.001) was associated with SVR higher than 80%. In 3 patients with cirrhosis a decompensation of liver or heart disease were observed. Over 50% of patients increased blood transfusions.

Conclusion: Dual therapy in TM patients with chronic HCV infection is efficacious in patients with the best virological, genetic and clinical predictors. Patients with cirrhosis have an increased risk of worsening liver or heart disease.

Keywords: Cirrhosis; Hepatitis C virus; IL28B polymorphisms; Iron liver overload; Peg-interferon; Ribavirin; Sustained virological response; Thalassemia major.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / complications
  • Hepacivirus / genetics
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use*
  • Interferons
  • Interleukins / genetics
  • Italy
  • Liver Cirrhosis / drug therapy
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ribavirin / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Viral Load
  • beta-Thalassemia / complications*
  • beta-Thalassemia / virology


  • Antiviral Agents
  • IFNL3 protein, human
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Interleukins
  • Ribavirin
  • Interferons