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Mental health, pro-inflammatory cytokines, and brain derived neurotrophic factor in patients undergoing treatment for hepatitis C: comparison between peginterferon-alpha-2a and peginterferon-alpha-2b

Author(s): Liang-Jen Wang, Shuo-Wei Chen, Rong-Nan Chien, Cho-Li Yen, Jia-Jang Chang,Tsung-Shih Lee, Ching- Jung Liu, Li-Wei Chen, Chih-Ken Chen


This study examines potential differences in the mental health, pro-inflammatory cytokines and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) of patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection who underwent antiviral treatment with peginterferon-alpha-2a (PegIFN-α-2a) and peginterferon-alpha-2b (PegIFN-α-2b).


In a 24 week non-randomized longitudinal study, 22 patients with HCV were treated with PegIFN-α-2a plus ribavirin (Group A), and 12 patients were treated with PegIFN-α-2b plus ribavirin (Group B). All patients were assessed on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), the Short-form Health-related Quality of Life (SF-36) questionnaire, and their serum levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-1-beta (IL-1β) and BDNF were compared at baseline and weeks 4, 12 and 24.


During the 24-week antiviral treatment, Group A and Group B exhibited similar rates of sustained virological response, increased depression levels, decreased scores of physical component summary (PCS) of the SF-36 and reduced serum BDNF levels. However, increased serum levels of IL-6, TNF-α, and IL-1β were observed only in Group A at the 24th week. During the treatment period, the depression scores and PCS scores of the SF-36 were positively correlated with IL-6, TNF-α and IL-1β levels, and negatively correlated with BDNF levels. Anxiety scores of the HADS were positively correlated with TNF-α and IL-1β levels.


This investigation provides insight into the differential effects of various peginterferon-alpha formulations on inflammatory parameters during antiviral treatment for HCV. During the treatment period, patients’ pro-inflammatory cytokines levels may be related to their symptoms of depression and anxiety, and BDNF levels may be linked to symptoms of depression. Future research with larger samples and a randomized control should be conducted to verify these findings.

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