Host and viral variables interact in determining the course and responsiveness to therapy of any viral infection. Presence of cirrhosis, serum levels of hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA and the genotype of infecting virus are considered predictive of response to interferon (IFN) in chronic HCV infection. We evaluated these parameters in relation to IFN therapy in a cohort of anti-HCV-positive subjects with chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis. HCV RNA was detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and by the branched DNA assay (bDNA), to quantify viraemia. HCV typing was performed by reverse-hybridization line probe assay. HCV RNA was detected in almost all anti-HCV-positive subjects with liver disease, PCR being more sensitive than bDNA. Hepatitis C viraemia was lowest in cirrhosis. Low pretreatment viraemia selected for those patients with chronic hepatitis obtaining a high rate of sustained response to IFN. The role of HCV type was less clearcut, due to the high prevalence in our population of type 1 (especially subtype 1b, accounting for 80% of cases). A trend towards a better response of non-1b genotypes was confirmed. This may be related to higher HCV RNA levels in type 1b-infected subjects. Cirrhosis remains however, independently from virological features, the strongest predictor of non-response to IFN. © 1995 Institut Pasteur/Elsevier Paris.
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