Background: Chronic infection with hepatitis B virus and hepatitis delta virus (HDV) results in the most severe form of viral hepatitis. There is no currently approved treatment. We investigated the safety and efficacy of 48 weeks of treatment with peginterferon alfa-2a plus adefovir dipivoxil, peginterferon alfa-2a alone, and adefovir dipivoxil alone.
Methods: We conducted a randomized trial in which 31 patients with HDV infection received treatment with 180 μg of peginterferon alfa-2a weekly plus 10 mg of adefovir daily, 29 received 180 μg of peginterferon alfa-2a weekly plus placebo, and 30 received 10 mg of adefovir alone weekly for 48 weeks. Follow-up was conducted for an additional 24 weeks. Efficacy end points included clearance of HDV RNA, normalization of alanine aminotransferase levels, and a decline in levels of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg).
Results: The primary end point - normalization of alanine aminotransferase levels and clearance of HDV RNA at week 48 - was achieved in two patients in the group receiving peginterferon alfa-2a plus adefovir and two patients in the group receiving peginterferon alfa-2a plus placebo but in none of the patients in the group receiving adefovir alone. At week 48, the test for HDV RNA was negative in 23% of patients in the first group, 24% of patients in the second, and none of those in the third (P=0.006 for the comparison of the first and third groups; P=0.004 for the comparison of the second and third). The efficacy of peginterferon alfa-2a was sustained for 24 weeks after treatment, with 28% of the patients receiving peginterferon alfa-2a plus adefovir or peginterferon alfa-2a alone having negative results on HDV-RNA tests; none of the patients receiving adefovir alone had negative results. A decline in HBsAg levels of more than 1 log(10) IU per milliliter from baseline to week 48 was observed in 10 patients in the first group, 2 in the second, and none in the third (P<0.001 for the comparison of the first and third groups and P=0.01 for the comparison of the first and second).
Conclusions: Treatment with peginterferon alfa-2a for 48 weeks, with or without adefovir, resulted in sustained HDV RNA clearance in about one quarter of patients with HDV infection. (Funded by Hep-Net [the German Network of Excellence on Viral Hepatitis] and others.