Response to interferon-alpha of Egyptian patients infected with hepatitis C virus genotype 4.
el-Zayadi A., Simmonds P., Dabbous H., Prescott L., Selim O., Ahdy A.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 4 is the principal HCV genotype found in Egypt and the Middle East. Little is known concerning its propensity to cause disease and the frequency with which infected individuals respond to interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha). We have investigated the response to treatment in a cohort of 100 chronic hepatitis C patients infected with genotype 4. All patients had biopsy-proven chronic active liver disease. Each was treated with 3 million units (MU) IFN-alpha, thrice weekly. Response was monitored, in 92 patients who completed treatment, by alanine aminotransferase (ALT) measurements and by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for HCV. ALT levels remained abnormal in 64 patients during treatment (69.6%). Of the 28 patients who showed a biochemical response during treatment (30.4%), 18 maintained this over the 6-month posttreatment period. Amongst the sustained biochemical responders, HCV RNA was cleared from serum in only four of the 18 (22.2%) in this period. Histological improvement was observed in 26/51 (50.9%) of the patients who had a second biopsy. Hence, patients infected with HCV genotype 4 show a poor response to IFN-alpha therapy compared with genotypes 2 and 3, but a similar response to IFN-alpha compared with those infected with type 1b HCV. These findings have major implications for treatment strategies in the Middle East, including Egypt, where HCV genotype 4 is widely distributed.