A new study suggests that it may be possible to quickly know whether a treatment for hepatitis C will be successful by analyzing levels of amino alanine transferase (ALT), an enzyme produced in the liver.
As reported in the August issue of Hepatology, researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the University of Chicago studied patients being treated for hepatitis C and discovered that those who had a decrease in ALT levels in the first 48 hours of treatment had a better chance of a successful outcome.
This is the first time that ALT dynamics in patients under treatment have been shown to fit into defined patterns, enabling doctors to predict the outcome of treatment shortly after beginning the one-year long therapy.
"ALT changes during the first 48 hours of treatment were predictive of long-term response," concluded the researchers.
Because only a small percentage of patients respond to hepatitis C treatment and many suffer from extremely unpleasant side effects, the researchers said any information that could help to predict whether the treatment will be successful is extremely valuable.
Additionally, the researchers said ALT detection has the potential to be a good diagnostic tool since it is much easier and cheaper than the current analysis of hepatitis genetic material, although they noted that one approach should not exclude the other.
Other sources: Hepatology 2003; 38(2): 509-517