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Category: Infectious Diseases
Children who screen positive for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in a lab test may receive several different prescriptions to treat the disease. However, new research from Boston Children's Hospital suggests that one medication, peginterferon alpha (pegIFN-alpha) may have a negative impact on the physical growth of young patients.
If some cases of HCV infection, individuals develop severe liver problems, such as cirrhosis and cancer. HCV is best treated when the disease is still in its mildest form. However, medical experts have been concerned about the use of pegIFN-alpha in children.
In order to investigate further, the team of scientists reviewed the medical information of 107 patients aged 5 to 18 years, all of whom received pegIFN-alpha (with or without ribavirin). Subjects were divided into groups depending on whether they were on therapy for 24 weeks, 48 weeks or 72 weeks.
"Our findings demonstrate significant effects on weight, [body mass index], and body composition in children treated with pegIFN-alpha that are reversible upon cessation of treatment. A reduction in linear growth persisted even after treatment was discontinued," said lead study author Maureen Jonas.
These side effects were reversible in some children after stopping therapy. Further research is needed to figure out the most optimal timing of treatment.
About 240,000 children in the U.S. have HCV. An infection may be confirmed with a lab test for antibodies against the virus.
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