Interferon May Reverse Fibrosis In Some Patients

Thursday February 25 1:25 PM ET; Interferon helps hepatitis C patients

NEW YORK, Feb 25 (Reuters Health) -- Treatment with interferon reversed liver fibrosis in two patients infected with the hepatitis C virus, according to a report in the journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences.

The finding contradicts the commonly held belief that cirrhosis of the liver due to the infection is irreversible.

Cirrhosis, a degenerative condition of the liver, may develop in up to 50% of patients with chronic hepatitis C.

``Once cirrhosis has developed, it is generally believed to be irreversible and untreatable,'' Dr. Jean-Francois Dufour of Tufts University Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues write. ``The two cases we report suggest that there are exceptions and demonstrate that hepatic fibrotic tissue is a dynamic structure that is capable of remodeling and dissolution. In both of our patients, hepatic fibrosis regressed to the point that cirrhosis was no longer demonstrable on liver biopsy.''

Both patients were treated with interferon-a for 18 months. The team report that liver biopsies showed that ``cirrhosis and/or extensive fibrosis... disappeared in response to treatment.'' The researchers believe the therapy reduced the ability of the hepatitis virus to replicate, which in turn reduces inflammation and cell death in the liver.

``The response of our patients to interferon-a is consistent with reports of patients with other types of cirrhosis or extensive fibrosis in whom the fibrosis regressed after effective therapy. These include patients with hemochromatosis, Wilson's disease, primary biliary cirrhosis, and autoimmune chronic active hepatitis,'' the investigators conclude.

SOURCE: Digestive Diseases and Sciences 1998;43:2573-2576.

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