Department of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology.
Objective: Increased serum ferritin (SF) levels are encountered in various conditions, such as inflammatory syndromes and haemochromatosis. Interferon alpha is one of the stimulants of SF. In this study we aimed to evaluate SF changes in patients with chronic hepatitis C (CHC) during antiviral therapy, and the relationship between SF and treatment response. Methods: Data from a total of 97 patients who had received peginterferon (PEG-IFN) plus ribavirin combination therapy for CHC, and who had been followed up for more than 6 months after treatment, were analyzed retrospectively. Patients who had undetectable hepatitis C virus RNA at 6 months after the completion of antiviral therapy were regarded as having achieved a sustained viral response (SVR), while the remaining patients were categorized as non-SVR. Differences in SF levels during therapy between SVR patients and non-SVR patients were examined. Results: We found that patients who achieved SVR had lower baseline ferritin levels. It was observed that SF levels increased dramatically in both the SVR and non-SVR groups after starting therapy, remained high until the end of the treatment period, and returned to baseline levels after completion of treatment. However the SF rise was found to be significantly higher in patients who achieved an SVR than in those without SVR at each time-point during treatment. Conclusions: SF levels increase during PEG-IFN-based therapy for CHC. A lower SF level before starting treatment and higher SF levels during therapy appear to be associated with a favourable treatment response. Therefore, rises in SF, especially during the early phase of treatment, could be a predictor of SVR.