Increased hepatic iron deposition resulting from treatment of chronic hepatitis C with ribavirin

M. Isabel Fiel, Thomas D. Schiano, Maria Guido, Swan N. Thung, Karen L. Lindsay, Gary L. Davis, James H. Lewis, Leonard B. Seeff, Henry C. Bodenheimer

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37 Scopus citations


Increased levels of hepatic iron may impair the response of patients with chronic hepatitis C to treatment with interferon-alfa, but combination therapy with ribavirin has demonstrated efficacy in the treatment of hepatitis C. When used alone or with interferon-alfa, ribavirin may cause a dose-dependent reversible hemolytic anemia. We compared the extent and cellular localization of iron deposition in liver tissue from biopsy specimens obtained before and after 36 weeks of therapy with ribavirin or placebo for 59 patients with chronic hepatitis C. Paired slides were available for review from 26 ribavirin and 27 placebo recipients. Iron deposition was assessed using coded slides stained with Perls Prussian blue and was semiquantitated in hepatocytes, Kupffer cells, and areas of fibrosis. The overall iron score fell by 0.96 in the placebo group and increased 1.69 in the ribavirin recipients. Iron was deposited mainly in hepatocytes; the hepatocyte iron score increased from 2.19 to 3.81 in the ribavirin group. The amount of iron staining in Kupffer cells declined in the placebo group and increased slightly in the ribavirin group. Iron changes in areas of fibrosis were minor and did not differ between groups. Increased total hepatic iron deposition occurred during a 9-month course of ribavirin. Ribavirin- associated hemolysis deposits iron preferentially in hepatocytes. This increased deposition of hepatic iron does not seem to affect the biochemical or histologic response to ribavirin therapy but may have implications for hepatocyte susceptibility to future injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-39
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Hemosiderosis
  • Hepatitis C virus
  • Interferon
  • Viral hepatitis


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