News from Hepatitis Week of Dec. 14, 2003 / Vol. 3 No. 50
Study: N-Acetyl Cysteine Does Not Benefit Patients With Acute Viral Hepatitis

N-acetyl cysteine does not appear to benefit patients with acute viral hepatitis, according to a study reported in the December issue of the World Journal of Gastroenterology.

Acute viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by infection with one of the five hepatitis viruses. For most people, the inflammation begins suddenly and lasts only a few weeks.

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is an altered form of the amino acid cysteine, which is commonly found in food and synthesized by the body.

A team of Turkish researchers examined the effect of N-acetyl cysteine in their study of 41 acute viral hepatitis patients. The patients received either 200 milligrams of oral N-acetyl cysteine three times daily or a placebo.

The researchers measured the effectiveness N-acetyl cysteine by the time it took high levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and total bilirubin levels to reach normal levels in the patients.

The researchers found little difference in the time it took ALT and total bilirubin levels to become normal - 19.7 and 13.7days, respectively, in the N-acetyl cysteine group, compared to 20.4 and 16.9 days, respectively, in the control group.

Although N-acetyl cysteine was harmless to the patients with acute viral hepatitis, the researchers said they could not recommend N-acetyl cysteine for the treatment of acute viral hepatitis.

Other sources: World Journal of Gastroenterology 2003 Dec;9(12):2698-700