Hepatitis C virus genotype 4 with normal transaminases: histological changes, schistosomiasis and response to treatment.
ABSTRACT Among individuals with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, approximately 30% of patients show persistently normal alanine aminotransferase (PNALT). Individuals with PNALT have been historically excluded from antiviral treatment. However, some studies have reported sudden worsening of disease in patients with PNALT, suggesting the need to treat such individuals. To evaluate this further, we compared fibrosis severity and response to treatment in patients with PNALT to patients with abnormal ALT. In addition, we investigated whether liver histology and schistosomiasis affect response to treatment differently in those with PNALT and abnormal ALT. A retrospective cohort study of 176 HCV-Genotype 4 (HCV-G4) patients treated with pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN) and ribavirin. Of 176 cases studied, 53 (30.1%) had normal ALT. Prevalence of pretreatment severe fibrosis, sustained virological response (SVR) and relapse were not significantly different in patients with PNALT (26%, 66% and 5.7% respectively) compared to those with abnormal ALT (32.5%, 60.7%, and 6.6% respectively). Multivariable logistic regression revealed that pretreatment ALT, pretreatment viral load, inflammation and schistosomiasis were not significantly associated with SVR [OR (95% CI), 0.75 (0.34-1.65); 0.92 (0.61-1.37); 1.64 (0.64-4.18); 0.90 (0.44-1.84) respectively]. Severe fibrosis was the only significant predictor of SVR [OR (95% CI), 0.38 (0.14-0.99)]. PNALT does not reflect the degree of fibrotic changes or predict SVR. Furthermore, schistosomiasis is a predictor of neither fibrosis nor poor response in patients with PNALT. Severe fibrosis is a strong and independent predictor of response to treatment. Therefore, it is important to treat individuals with PNALT levels regardless of schistosomiasis.