Acute infection due to hepatitis C virus results in a chronic progression in 50-84% of cases. In the light of the risk of developing chronic disease and the response rate to treatment once the disease is established, it is very important to consider early treatment of acute hepatitis C before it progresses to the chronic form. The aim of this review is to evaluate the real efficacy and tolerance of Peg-interferon alfa-2b in monotherapy and in association with ribavirin in the treatment of patients affected by acute C hepatitis, to delineate the viral factors correlated with the sustained virological response and to consider when treatment should be started in relation to onset and what is the optimal duration of therapy. Also the pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic characteristics of PEG-IFN alfa-2b and ribavirin are reassessed. The analysis of literature demonstrates that Peg-interferon alfa-2b treatment is efficacious in terms of attaining sustained virological response (71-94% of cases). Treatment must be started within three months of onset and must be prolonged for three months. Only two studies have provided evidence the needed of a prolonged treatment for six months for genotype 1 infections. In all studies therapy has been generally well tolerated. Sustained virological response is independent of baseline viral load and of HCV genotypes in patients treated for six months, while in subjects treated for three months it seems to be dependent on HCV-genotype, with genotype 1 characterized by a less favourable outcome. Combination therapy with ribavirin does not seem to increase the response rate but could be proposed as a second choice to patients not responding to IFN monotherapy.
Keywords: Peg-interferon, HCV, acute hepatitis C, treatment, monotherapy
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