HISPANICS have a four times higher incidence of non-A, non-B hepatitis than whites or blacks in the United States (JAMA. 1990;264:2231-2235).
There are no clues as to why, says Miriam Alter, PhD, chief of hepatitis epidemiology at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Atlanta, Ga, and first author of the study.
In fact, since the start this past year of blood bank screening for the hepatitis C virus (HCV), the cause of most non-A, non-B hepatitis, the transmission route of 40% of infections cannot be deduced.
More pressing is the question of who should be treated, since a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel has recommended approval for interferon alfa therapy.
With a 6-month course of 3 million units of interferon alfa three times a week, 38% to 50% of patients respond with normalized transaminase levels and histologic improvement within 12 weeks vs 3% to 5% improvement for untreated controls.