Acute hepatitis C often progresses to chronic infection.
In this study, researchers from Japan assessed whether short-term therapy with interferon (IFN) during acute hepatitis C was effective in preventing the development of chronic hepatitis.
The team randomized 30 patients with acute hepatitis C into 1 of 2 treatment groups.
In the early-intervention group IFN therapy was initiated 8 weeks after the onset of acute hepatitis. In the late-intervention group, patients underwent a year of observation before therapy was initiated.
The short-term therapy consisted of natural IFN-alpha (6 million units) administered each day for 4 weeks.
Any signs of recrudescence of disease were immediately followed by interval IFN therapy (3 times weekly for 20 weeks).
The team found that short-term therapy was associated with a sustained virological response in 87% of the early-intervention group and 40% of the late-intervention group.
In addition, follow-up treatment was associated with a sustained virological response 100% of the remaining patients in the early-intervention group and 53% of the late-intervention group.
Dr Hideyuki Nomura and colleagues concluded, "Short-term (4 weeks) IFN treatment of patients with acute hepatitis C may be associated with satisfactory results, if initiated at an early stage of the disease".