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Interferon - alpha

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Updated December 01, 2008

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
    • fever
    • chills
    • headache
    • body aches
    • fatigue
  • decreased appetite
  • weight loss
  • insomnia
  • hair loss
  • decreased white blood cells and platelets
  • elevated liver enzymes
  • anxiety
  • mood changes
  • irritability
  • depression
  • difficulty concentrating
  • impaired memory

For More Information:

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