BACKGROUND/AIMS: Children with chronic hepatitis C were recently found to have higher rates of sustained response to interferon compared to adults. The aim of this study was to verify the response to interferon using frequent viremia measurements. METHODS: Sera from 25 children (13 males; mean age 7.9 years) with chronic hepatitis C, treated with recombinant alpha-2b interferon for 12 months, were tested for liver function tests and viremia levels for a median of 27.5 months. Autoantibodies were evaluated during and after interferon. RESULTS: Fifteen patients completed 12 months of interferon; treatment was stopped in 10 other patients. In 11 (44%) patients viremia was undetectable already at the second administration of interferon; one of them remained viremia-free up to the end of follow-up and had persistently normal alanine-aminotransferase levels (complete sustained responder). A complete sustained response was observed only in one other patient, who normalized alanine aminotransferase and cleared viremia from the 3rd month of therapy. Three patients with persistent viremia normalized alanine-aminotransferase from the 3rd week of therapy up to the end of follow-up (biochemical sustained responders). Viremia was undetectable during treatment in four patients, who stopped interferon because of worsening in hypertransaminasemia. Three of these four patients were anti-liver-kidney microsomal type 1-positive. CONCLUSIONS: In this study the response rate to interferon was very low and viremia and transaminase findings were often discordant.
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