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Iron in hepatitis C: villain or innocent bystander?

Ioannou GN, Tung BY, Kowdley KV. Iron in hepatitis C: villain or innocent bystander? Seminars in Gastrointestinal Disease. 2002 Apr 1; 13(2):95-108.

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Elevations in serum transferrin-iron saturation and ferritin are common in patients with chronic hepatitis C infection, especially if they have concomitant elevations in serum aminotransferases. However, serum markers of iron stores do not accurately reflect hepatic iron content, or predict clinically important endpoints such as response to interferon and disease progression. In contrast, hepatic iron concentration, which is usually normal or only mildly elevated in chronic hepatitis C infection in the absence of cirrhosis, is one of the strongest predictors of response to interferon monotherapy. Iron depletion by phlebotomy consistently reduces serum aminotransferases and in combination with interferon may have improved antiviral efficacy compared to interferon alone. Unfortunately, no data are available on the role, if any, of iron depletion therapy, as an adjunct to interferon and ribavirin combination treatment. Future studies should focus on the efficacy of combining iron depletion with pegylated interferon and ribavirin and on the effect of long-term iron depletion on histologic progression of chronic hepatitis C infection.

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