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Neuroendocrinology Letters Vol. 22 No. 1 Contents
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Neuroendocrinology Letters incl. Psychoneuroimmunology & Chronobiology


Neuroendocrinology Letters incl. Psychoneuroimmunology & Chronobiology,
ISSN 0172–780X Copyright © 2000 Neuroendocrinology Letters

NEL VOL. 22 No. 1

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2001; 22:39-44
pii: NEL220101A04
PMID: 11335878

Incidence of autoimmune thyroiditis in interferon-a treated and untreated patients with chronic hepatitis C virus infection
by Antonio Rocco, Serena Gargano, Alessia Provenzano, Maria Rosaria Nardone, Giuseppe Maria De Sanctis, Nadia Altavilla, Lucia Valeria Chircu & Francesca Grimaldi

interferon-a therapy, thyroid autoimmunity, thyroid autoantibodies, anti-thyroid peroxidase autoantibodies, anti-thyroid thyroglobulin autoantibodies, HCV infection


OBJECTIVES: To clarify the relationship between interferon-a (IFN-a) therapy and autoimmune thyroiditis in chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, we investigated a selected number of patients without basal thyroid dysfunctions.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: 130 patients (average age: 20–70), with chronic HCV infection and without basal clinical and laboratory signs of autoimmune thyroiditis were divided into two groups: IFN-a treated (A) and untreated (B) patients. Group A received IFN-a (three million U.I./3 times a week) for six months; group B was followed for the same period. Thyroid peroxidase and thyroglobulin autoantibodies were measured by radioimmunoassay; thyroid function was measured by radioimmunoassay (free thyroxine and triiodothyronine) and immunoradiometric assay (thyroid stimulating hormone).

RESULTS: After a 6-month period, thyroid autoantibodies positivity was documented in 21.1% of group A and in 10.3% of group B patients, both statistically relevant (p<0.001 and p< 0.011, respectively). The comparison between the two groups was not statistically relevant (p=0.142).

CONCLUSIONS: Our study showed a prevalence of de novo thyroid autoimmunity in chronic HCV patients treated with IFN-a, confirming previous data in literature. The lack of a significant difference between treated and untreated patients strongly suggests that the anti-thyroid autoimmune response is linked to the HCV infection itself. Moreover, IFN-a therapy probably does not represent a risk factor in renewing the autoimmune processes of the thyroid gland. Thyroid function and autoantibodies must be systematically monitored in patients with HCV infection, especially in female and IFN-a treated population, not only to verify the possible thyroid abnormalities but also to rule out concomitant autoimmune diseases.

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