What is Interferon?:
- A mixture of proteins that our body makes in response to virus infections. Interferon has antiviral and immunomodulating effects.
- Interferons may be divided into alfa, beta, and gamma interferons.
- Interferons used for treatment is generally made by genetic engineering and usually consists of one type of alfa interferon only.
How is Interferon Administered?:
- Interferon is usually administered as subcutaneous injections (just under the skin) daily or three times a week.
- The dose regimen for treatment of chronic hepatitis B is usually 5 million units daily or 10 million units three times a week for 16 weeks.
Who May Benefit from Interferon Treatment?:
- Patients with chronic hepatitis B - hepatitis B surface antigen positive for at least 6 months, markers of active infection - hepatitis B virus DNA positive and evidence of active liver disease - abnormal liver enzymes.
When Should Interferon Not Be Used?:
- Patients with no evidence of virus multiplication (hepatitis B DNA negative) or active liver disease (normal liver enzymes.
- Patients with advanced cirrhosis.
- Patients with other major medical problems or emotional or psychiatric illnesses.
How Effective is Interferon?:
- Response is usually assessed by loss of hepatitis B e antigen and hepatitis B virus DNA, detection of hepatitis B e antibody, and normalization of liver enzymes. Approximately 20-30% of patients will respond after a course of interferon therapy. Most responders (90%) maintain their response during long-term follow-up. Responders have a decreased risk of developing liver failure and liver cancer.
What Are the Side Effects of Interferon?:
- "flu-like" symptoms
- body aches
- decreased appetite
- weight loss
- hair loss
- decreased white blood cells and platelets
- elevated liver enzymes
- mood changes
- difficulty concentrating
- impaired memory
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