BACKGROUND & AIMS: It is recommended that patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 3 infections receive 24 weeks of treatment. A rapid virologic response (RVR; at week 4) predicts a sustained virologic response (SVR), although not all patients with an RVR achieve an SVR. We explored the relationships among hepatic steatosis, level of HCV RNA, relapse, and RVR in a phase 3 randomized controlled trial of 932 patients infected with HCV genotype 2 (n = 427) or 3 (n = 505) who received 24 weeks of therapy with interferon-α.
METHODS: In patients with an RVR (HCV RNA <43 IU/mL), the presence of an SVR was modeled using multivariate logistic regression as a function of age, sex, weight, body mass index, insulin resistance, steatosis, and levels of γ-glutamyl transpeptidase, alanine aminotransferase, liver fibrosis, and baseline HCV RNA.
RESULTS: RVR, SVR, and relapse rates among patients with HCV genotype 3 were 79.6%, 79.2%, and 15.6%, respectively; corresponding rates among patients with HCV genotype 2 were 86.7%, 84.3%, and 10.1%. An RVR had high predictive value for an SVR in patients with HCV genotypes 2 (88.9%) and 3 (88.1%). The strongest independent predictors of relapse in patients with genotype 3 and an RVR were steatosis (odds ratio 3.0; P = .003) and HCV RNA ≥400,000 IU/mL (odds ratio 2.5; P = .04). Relapse rates in patients with steatosis were 17.4% and 20.9% for low and high baseline levels of HCV RNA, respectively; corresponding rates in those without steatosis were 2.5% and 8.8%.
CONCLUSIONS: Steatosis was associated with significantly higher rates of relapse, irrespective of viral load, in patients infected with HCV genotype 3 who had an RVR. Further studies are needed to determine if longer treatment durations are effective in patients with an RVR and these risk factors