Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, Graduate School of Medical Science, Kyoto.
This study examined serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels at first visit and their relationship with long-term normal serum ALT levels in hepatitis C virus (HCV) carriers with persistently normal ALT (PNALT).
HCV carriers with PNALT were identified as those patients with positivity of serum HCV RNA, ALT levels of 30 IU/L or less over a 12-month period on at least three different occasions, platelet count of more than 15 × 10(4) μl/mL and body mass index of 30 kg/m(2) or less. Outcome was retrospectively studied in 49 HCV carriers with PNALT, who were followed up for more than 10 years.
During the mean follow-up period of 14.7 2.5 years, ALT levels of 30 IU/L or less were preserved in only eight patients (8/49; 16.3%). Among the 17 patients with initial ALT levels of 19 IU/L or less, nine patients remained with ALT levels of 30 IU/L or less after 10 years (9/17; 52.9%). The probability of ALT levels in PNALT being maintained at 30 IU/L or less was significantly higher (P = 0.001) in these patients than in those with initial ALT levels of 20 IU/L or more (n = 32). Abnormal ALT levels were more common in female PNALT patients aged 45-55 years, which is usually the time of menopause onset.
Because antiviral therapy in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C is rapidly advancing, waiting for more effective and safer treatments may be an option. The results of this study provide an important insight into this issue.