Key Factors Spur Hepatitis C Treatment Success
FRIDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Successful treatment of hepatitis C may depend on the type of interferon given to patients and the viral strain, researchers say.
The study also confirmed that other factors, such as Caucasian race, the absence of cirrhosis and elevated levels of the liver enzyme ALT, all predict successful treatment.
More than 3 million people in the United States are chronically infected with hepatitis C, experts say. Infection is spread by contact with the blood of infected individuals, primarily through injection drug use. Without treatment, hepatitis C results in liver disease and death. It is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States. Interferon, combined with additional drugs, is the primary treatment.
Researchers in the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System analyzed data from almost 6,000 patients who received treatment for hepatitis C in system clinics. The researchers tested their blood three months after treatment ended to find out if the virus was no longer detectable, indicating successful treatment.
The research showed that patients treated with pegylated interferon form 2A, rather than 2B, were 40 percent more likely not to have any detectable virus in their blood. Pegylated interferon is a man-made version of interferon, a substance made by the body to fight viruses. The term pegylated refers to additional elements that keep the medicine in the body longer.
The results also indicated that patients with hepatitis C virus genotype 2 were more likely to respond to treatment than those with genotype 3, both of which are known to be more successfully treatable than genotype 1.
Low cholesterol levels also predicted a lack of treatment success. The researchers theorize that low cholesterol may indicate more severe liver disease.
In the article, published in the July issue of Hepatology, the experts suggest that a better understanding of the varying factors that affect the success of hepatitis C treatment can help physicians and patients develop a strategy for success.
To learn about hepatitis C, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.