Hepatitis-C Patients Have Reduced Growth Hormone (GH) Secretion Which Improves During Long-Term Therapy With Pegylated Interferon-α

Plöckinger, Ursula; Krüger, Denny; Bergk, Alexandra; Weich, Viola; Wiedenmann, Bertram; Berg, Thomas
December 2007
American Journal of Gastroenterology;Dec2007, Vol. 102 Issue 12, p2724
Academic Journal
OBJECTIVES: In vitro and in vivo data indicate multiple, but contradictory effects of interferon on pituitary hormone secretion. We therefore investigated prospectively basal and stimulated pituitary hormone secretion in 21 patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection before and during antiviral therapy. METHODS: Twenty-one patients received pegylated interferon-α plus either ribavirin or levovirin. Baseline and stimulated growth hormone (GH), cortisol, luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), prolactin (PRL), and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) responses were measured using standard pituitary function tests, before therapy in all and during therapy in 17 out of the 21 patients. RESULTS: Before therapy 17 patients (81%) had severe GH insufficiency and 9 of these had low insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) concentrations. Basal and stimulated GH concentrations increased significantly during therapy, reducing the number of patients with severe GH insufficiency to four, but IGF-1 remained low. Basal PRL and TSH concentrations were normal before and during therapy, while thyroid-releasing hormone (TRH)-stimulated concentrations increased significantly during therapy. The adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)/cortisol axis, basal and stimulated gonadotropin, and testosterone concentrations were normal throughout. Neither the HCV RNA level nor transaminases correlated with hormone concentrations before or during therapy. CONCLUSIONS: GH insufficiency is common in patients with chronic HCV infection. While GH secretion improves during antiviral therapy, IGF-1 remains low, indicating persistent GH resistance of hepatocytes. Whether improvement in GH secretion during treatment is due to a direct drug effect or related to the suppression of viral load could not be differentiated, as most patients demonstrated a positive virologic response.


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