Hepatitis C Relapse After Treatment –Spontaneously Cleared in Some

H Kuriry et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021; 19: 2398-2406. Spontaneous Clearance After Relapse Following Direct-Acting Antiviral Treatment for Chronic HCV Infection

This retrospective case-control study identified 93 patients out of 1032 with chronic HCV infection who had a relapse of detectable infection following treatment. Key findings:

  • 12 patients (13%) spontaneously cleared HCV within 6 months after the documented relapse without additional therapy
  • The spontaneous clearers had low levels of HCV RNA (<4 log IU/mL in 11 of 12) and normal levels of alanine aminotransferase at the time of relapse. Low level RNA was identified in only 1 persistent relapser
  • There was no significant difference between the spontaneous clearance group and the SVR12 group in magnitude and breadth of HCV-specific T cell responses
  • The authors note that one limitation of the study was a false positive PCR assay –though this does not negate their message that retesting is important before retreatment
  • The relatively high relapse rate (9%) in this cohort is likely related to the use of first-generation DAA therapy
  • The timing of retesting in the 12 with spontaneous clearance was variable. 7 who had repeat testing at 3 months were all negative.

My take: In those with a low level virological relapse after DAA therapy for HCV, it is a good idea to repeat testing before consideration of further treatment.

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