Efficacy of interferon in immunocompromised HCV patients after liver transplantation or with HIV co-infection

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Interferon (IFN)-based antiviral therapy is increasingly used in immunocompromised patients with chronic hepatitis C after orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) and HIV–HCV co-infection. Differences in early viral kinetics have not been compared in these patients.

Materials and methods

We retrospectively analysed 76 patients (31 OLT, 20 HIV–HCV and 25 HCV control patients) undergoing IFN sensitivity testing before starting antiviral therapy with pegylated IFN-α2a (180 μg week−1) plus ribavirin (0·8–1·2 g day−1) for 48 weeks. We compared baseline parameters, response to IFN and treatment outcome between the groups and assessed the influence of specific calcineurin inhibitors in OLT patients and immune status in HIV–HCV patients on treatment response.


Viral loads pretherapy were higher in OLT compared to nontransplanted HCV controls (P = 0·003). The same trend was present in HIV–HCV (P = 0·09). The log-drop after test dose was less in OLT compared to HCV (P = 0·02), while no significant difference was found between HIV–HCV and HCV. In HIV–HCV patients viral load log-drop correlated significantly with CD4+ cell counts (P = 0·001). No difference in viral load pretherapy, log-drop and treatment outcome was noted between different calcineurin inhibitors in OLT patients. Sustained virological response rates were 28% in OLT, 50% in HIV–HCV and 56% in HCV patients.


Immunosuppression results in high HCV viral loads. Initial efficacy of IFN is significantly impaired in OLT patients, but not in HIV–HCV with largely preserved CD4+ cell counts. Sustained virological response rates of 28% in OLT patients are suboptimal, but encouraging results are shown for HIV–HCV patients with relatively high CD4+ cell counts.

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