There are few data in the literature regarding the long-term virological follow-up of chronic hepatitis C patients who obtain sustained virological response (SVR) to pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN) and ribavirin therapy.
To assess the durability of SVR to PEG-IFN and ribavirin therapy during long-term follow-up of chronic hepatitis C patients.
We evaluated a cohort of 231 chronic hepatitis C patients who had at least 48 weeks of follow-up after SVR to PEG-IFN and ribavirin treatment. Median duration of follow-up after SVR was 164 weeks, and exceeded 5 years in 30% of the cohort. Patients underwent consistent clinical, biochemical and virological evaluations every 6 months during follow-up.
Sustained virological response was maintained in 211 patients (91%) while HCV-RNA became positive in two patients (<1%) within 1 year after SVR, and in 18 patients (8%) serum HCV-RNA was transiently positive in at least one follow-up evaluation. Clinical outcome was not significantly different between patients with persistently negative and transiently positive serum HCV-RNA.
Sustained virological response to PEG-IFN and ribavirin is maintained in 99% of patients during long-term follow-up. Late virological relapse occurred within 1 year after SVR and, from a clinical perspective, patients can be considered cured of infection after this period.