Acute hepatitis C virus infection makes up about 20% of cases of acute hepatitis.
In this study, researchers from Germany aimed to determine the natural course of this disease, and to contribute to the development of treatment strategies.
The team based their diagnosis on seroconversion to anti-hepatitis C virus antibodies, or clinical and biochemical criteria, and the presence of hepatitis C virus RNA in the first serum sample.
They included 60 patients with acute hepatitis C in their study.
|Spontaneous clearance was observed in 52% of untreated patients.|
Of these, 85% presented with symptomatic acute hepatitis C virus.
The team found that in untreated acute symptomatic hepatitis C, spontaneous clearance was observed in 52% of patients. This usually occurred within 12 weeks of the onset of symptoms.
The team determined that all 9 patients who were asymptomatic developed chronic hepatitis C.
Furthermore, antiviral therapy with interferon-alpha, either with or without ribavirin, induced sustained viral clearance in 80% of patients.
Dr Tilman Gerlach's team concluded, "The management of acute hepatitis C has to take into account the high rate of spontaneous viral clearance within 12 weeks after the onset of symptomatic disease".
"Treatment of only those patients who remain hepatitis C virus RNA positive for more than 3 months after the onset of disease led to an overall viral clearance (self-limited and treatment induced) in 91% of patients, and unnecessary treatment was avoided in those with spontaneous viral clearance".
"Patients with asymptomatic acute hepatitis C virus infection are unlikely to clear the infection spontaneously and should be treated as early as possible".