Background & Aims: Monotherapy with standard or pegylated interferon (PegIFN) remains the first-line treatment for HCV infection in patients with thalassemia major (ßTM), although its long-term impact is still unknown. We aimed to assess the efficacy of IFN-a2b/PegIFN-a2b (one or multiple treatment sessions) and the predictors for sustained virological response (SVR) in HCV-infected βTM patients.

Methods: Between 11/1992 and 12/2013 [median follow-up: 165.5 months (8-237)], 48 βTM HCV-infected patients [19 males, median age: 22 years (12-45)], received IFN-a2b (n=34) or PegIFN-a2b (n=14). Twenty-three patients (47.9%) had a previous splenectomy; 13/40 (32.5%) patients had Ishak stage ≥4 and 21/40 (52.5%) had siderosis grade 3-4. HCV-genotype was available in 36 patients (genotype 1: 47.2%, 2: 5.6%, 3: 25%, and 4: 22%). IL28B genotype was determined in 37 patients by means of in-house real-time PCR (CC: 27%, CT: 62.2%, TT: 10.8%).

Totally, 15/48 (31.3%) achieved SVR following the first treatment and 18/48 (37.5%) after multiple courses. Splenectomy (p=0.01) and fibrosis grade ≥4 (p<0.05) were negative predictors for SVR (first course), whereas splenectomy (p<0.05) and age >18 (p<0.02) for SVR after multiple courses. In HCV-genotype 1/4 (n=25), none of the patients with CT or TT IL28B genotype achieved SVR compared to 50% of the CC patients (p=0.004).

Conclusions: Interferon is an effective therapeutic option in HCV-infected ßTM patients. IL28B genotype was a strong predictor for SVR, together with splenectomy, age and fibrosis.


thalassemia major, chronic hepatitis C, interferon, pegylated interferon, IL28B polymorphisms