Ribavirin impairs salivary gland function in hepatitis c patients during combination treatment with pegylated interferon alfa-2a

Alessio Aghemo, Maria Grazia Rumi, Sara Monico, Matteo Banderali, Antonio Russo, Francesco Ottaviani, Mauro Vigano, Roberta D'Ambrosio, Massimo Colombo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Xerostomia is a common adverse event of unknown etiology observed during pegylated interferon (PegIFN)/Ribavirin (Rbv) treatment. Objectives: To assess the frequency and mechanisms of xerostomia during PegIFN/Rbv therapy. Patients and Methods: Thirty-one naïve patients with chronic hepatitis C consecutively received PegIFN-α2a (180 μg/week) plus Rbv (800-1200 mg/day). The controls were 10 patients with chronic hepatitis B who received PegIFN-α2a (180 μg/week). During treatment and follow-up, all patients underwent basal and masticatory stimulated sialometry, otorhinolaryngoiatric (ORL) examination, and a questionnaire survey to subjectively assess symptoms of oral dryness. Results: Twenty-seven patients on PegIFN/Rbv and 4 on PegIFN (87% vs. 40%, P = 0.006) reported xerostomia. Thirty patients on PegIFN/Rbv combination therapy and 2 patients on monotherapy had ORL signs of salivary gland hypofunction (97% vs. 20%, P <0.0001). Mean basal (A) and stimulated (B) salivary flow rates (mL/min) progressively decreased during PegIFN/Rbv treatment (A, 0.49 at baseline vs. 0.17 at the end of treatment, P <0.0001; B, 1.24 at baseline vs. 0.53 at the end of treatment, P = 0.0004). At week 24 following PegIFN/Rbv treatment, salivary flow rates were similar to baseline (A, 0.53 at the end of follow-up vs. 0.49 at baseline; B, 1.19 at the end of follow-up vs. 1.24 at baseline). Salivary function was unaffected in monotherapy patients. Conclusions: Rbv causes salivary gland hypofunction in hepatitis C patients receiving PegIFN/Rbv therapy, which promptly reverts to normal upon cessation of treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)918-924
Number of pages7
JournalHepatitis Monthly
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


  • Ribavirin peginterferon alfa-2a salivary glands hepatitis C hepatitis B

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Infectious Diseases


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