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Based on a recent study, researchers say yes. The study involved 997 patients with hepatitis C; some were also infected with HIV. Patients received peginterferon alfa-2a either alone or with ribavirin. Researchers monitored blood levels of hepatitis C virus for an average of 4.1 years, but some patients were followed for up to 7 years.


More than 99% of patients who were treated successfully with peginterferon, either alone or with ribavirin, had no detectable virus during the follow-up period. Eight patients tested positive for hepatitis C an average of 2 years after treatment, but researchers can't say whether these patients had a relapse or were reinfected with hepatitis C.


The researchers say their study indicates that hepatitis C is curable and should be treated, even if the patient has no symptoms. Many asymptomatic patients with hepatitis C decline treatment because of the length of therapy (peginterferon is given as a weekly injection for up to 48 weeks) and unpleasant adverse reactions, such as fever, chills, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, and depression.


Researchers reported their findings at the 38th annual Digestive Disease Week conference in Washington, D.C., last spring.