Many patients suffering from symptomatic acute hepatitis C are likely to get better on their own without any treatment, according to a study reported in the July issue of Gastroenterology.
Acute hepatitis C virus infection accounts for approximately 20 percent of cases of acute hepatitis today, according to researchers.
The study involved 60 patients, including nine with asymptomatic chronic hepatitis C and 51 with symptomatic acute hepatitis C virus.
Of the symptomatic patients, 46 went untreated during the first 12 weeks of their disease.
In the natural course of the disease, spontaneous clearance was observed in 52 percent of the symptomatic patients, usually within 12 weeks after the onset of symptoms. All of the nine asymptomatic patients developed chronic hepatitis C.
The symptomatic patients who remained positive for the hepatitis C virus for more than three months after the onset of the disease received antiviral therapy consisting of interferon-alfa with or without ribavirin. Sustained viral clearance occurred in 80 percent of treated patients.
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," concluded the researchers, who noted that unnecessary treatment was avoided in those with spontaneous viral clearance.
On the other hand, the researchers noted that asymptomatic acute hepatitis C virus patients are unlikely to clear the infection spontaneously and should be treated as early as possible.
Other sources: Gastroenterology 25(1): 80-88. July 2003