Effect of Maintenance Therapy With Low-dose Peginterferon for Recurrent Hepatitis C After Living Donor Liver Transplantation

Y. Ueda; H. Marusawa; T. Kaido; Y. Ogura; F. Oike; A. Mori; K. Ogawa; A. Yoshizawa; E. Hatano; A. Miyagawa-Hayashino; H. Haga; H. Egawa; Y. Takada; S. Uemoto; T. Chiba


J Viral Hepat. 2012;19(1):32-38. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Approximately 30% of patients who have recurrent hepatitis C after liver transplantation achieve sustained virological response (SVR) by taking a combination therapy of pegylated interferon and ribavirin. For the remaining non-SVR patients, an effective management treatment has not yet been established. In this study, efficacy of long-term peginterferon maintenance therapy for non-SVR patients was evaluated. Forty patients who had previously received the combination therapy for hepatitis C after living donor liver transplantation were classified into one of the following three groups: the SVR group (n = 11); the non-SVR-IFN group (n = 17), which received low-dose peginterferon maintenance therapy for non-SVR patients; and the non-SVR-Withdrawal group (n = 12), which discontinued the interferon treatment. We then compared histological changes among these three groups after 2 or more years follow-up. Activity grade of liver histology improved or remained stable in patients in the SVR and non-SVR-IFN groups, but deteriorated in half of the patients in the non-SVR-Withdrawal group. Fibrosis improved or remained stable in 10 of 11 SVR patients and in 13 of 17 non-SVR-IFN patients, but deteriorated in all non-SVR-Withdrawal patients. Mean changes in fibrosis stage between pretreatment and final liver biopsy were −0.18, +0.06 and +2.2 in the SVR, non-SVR-IFN and non-SVR-Withdrawal groups, respectively. Fibrosis stage deteriorated to F3 or F4 significantly more rapidly in the non-SVR-Withdrawal group than in the other two groups. In conclusion, continuing long-term maintenance therapy with peginterferon prevented histological progression of hepatitis C in patients who had undergone living donor liver transplantation.


Cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma caused by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the leading indication for liver transplantation in Japan, the United States and western Europe. However, liver allograft infection with HCV following liver transplantation is universal, and almost all patients develop recurrent liver injury.[1–6] The progression of recurrent hepatitis C is often accelerated and, without appropriate antiviral therapy, 10–25% of patients develop cirrhosis within 5 years after transplantation, resulting in poorer prognosis for HCV-positive recipients than HCV-negative recipients.[7]

To prevent the progression of hepatitis C after liver transplantation, a combined therapy of pegylated interferon plus ribavirin is commonly administered.[8,9] However, the efficacy of this combination therapy is limited: The mean sustained virological response (SVR) rate among patients with recurrent hepatitis C after liver transplantation was only 30% (range, 8–50%).[10] Effective management of the remaining 70% of the patients who are unable to achieve SVR has not been established.[11]

We recently reported the change in liver histology after combination therapy with interferon plus ribavirin in patients who have recurrent hepatitis C after living donor liver transplantations (LDLT). Among patients who did not achieve SVR, activity grade was not improved and fibrosis stage deteriorated. On the other hand, SVR was associated with reduced hepatic inflammation and suppression of liver fibrosis progression.[12] Because the histological progression of non-SVR patients occurred mainly after interferon therapy was discontinued, we hypothesized that long-term, continuous interferon administration might be effective in slowing the progression of liver damage in these patients. Therefore, after our previous study, we prescribed a low-dose peginterferon maintenance therapy for non-SVR patients. Here, we evaluated the efficacy of this treatment by investigating long-term histological changes in these patients, as well as comparing them to the changes observed in SVR patients and non-SVR patients who did not receive maintenance treatment.


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