Rise in alanine aminotransferase after HCV treatment is a highly sensitive screen for treatment failure.
Flower B., Nguyen Thi Ngoc P., McCabe L., Le Ngoc C., Vo Thi T., Thi Kim HV., Dang Trong T., Rahman M., Thwaites G., Walker AS., Hung LM., Vinh Chau NV., Cooke GS., Day JN.
Nucleic acid testing to confirm sustained virological response (SVR) after HCV therapy is technical, often expensive, and frequently unavailable where disease prevalence is highest. Alternative surrogate biomarkers merit evaluation. In a short-treatment trial in Vietnam (SEARCH-1; n = 52) we analysed how changes in alanine transaminase (ΔALT) and aspartate transaminase (ΔAST), from end of treatment (EOT) to EOT + 12 weeks, related to SVR, defined as HCV RNA < lower limit of quantification 12 weeks after EOT. In a separate UK trial (STOPHCV1; n = 202), we then tested the hypothesis that any elevation in ALT or AST between EOT and EOT12 is a sensitive screen for treatment failure. In SEARCH-1, among 48 individuals with data, 13 failed to achieve SVR. Median ΔALT and ΔAST were negative in cured patients but elevated when treatment failed [median ΔALT (IQR): -2 IU/L (-6, +2)] versus +17 IU/L (+7.5, +38) (p< 0.001). Amongst treatment failures, 12/13 had increase in ALT and 13/13 had increase in AST after EOT, compared with 12/35 in those cured. In STOPHCV1, 196/202 patients had evaluable data, of which 57 did not achieve SVR. A rise in ALT after EOT was 100% sensitive (95% C.I. [93.7 - 100%]) and 51% specific (42.4 - 59.7%) for detecting treatment failure. ΔAST >0 IU/L was 98.1% (89.9 - 99.9%) sensitive and 35.8% (27.3 - 45.1%) specific. A rise in ALT or AST after HCV therapy is a highly sensitive screen for treatment failure in mild liver disease. This finding could reduce costs and complexity of managing HCV.