To assess the safety and possible efficacy of recombinant human interferon alfa-2b in preventing the development of chronic hepatitis, 24 adults (eight men, 16 women) with acute non-A, non-B (NANB) hepatitis were recruited to a pilot study. Half of the cases were parenterally transmitted and half were community acquired. Twelve patients received 3 million units (MU) interferon three times weekly subcutaneously for six weeks and the remaining 12 patients received no treatment. Anti-hepatitis C virus (HCV) was detected in 14 (58.3%) of the 24 patients. The alanine aminotransferase activity returned to normal in nine of 12 interferon alfa-2b treated patients and six of 12 controls by week 52. Interferon alfa-2b was well tolerated, even in jaundiced patients, who only complained of mild flu like syndrome during the first week of treatment. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that interferon alfa-2b may help prevent progression to chronic hepatitis (interferon alfa-2b 25% v controls 50%), particularly in anti-HCV negative cases (interferon alfa-2b none of six v controls two of four). A randomised, double blind placebo-controlled trial is required, however, to substantiate these results further.
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