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BACKGROUND/AIMS—The role of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in fulminant hepatitis remains controversial. This study was conducted to investigate the risk of fulminant hepatitis C in relation to HCV genotypes and concurrent infection of other viruses.
PATIENTS—109 HCV RNA positive patients from 334 consecutive cases hospitalised to a medical centre in northern Taiwan for overt acute viral hepatitis were prospectively evaluated.
METHODS—HCV RNA was detected by a combined reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction assay. HCV genotypes were analysed using a genotype specific probe based assay in the 5' untranslated region.
RESULTS—39 patients tested positive for hepatitis B surface antigen but negative for IgM antibody to hepatitis B core antigen, indicating concurrent chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Twelve patients were hepatitis G virus (HGV) RNA positive. Genotyping of HCV disclosed 1b in 93, 1b mixed with 2a/2c or 1b mixed with 2b in 11, and not classified in five. Serum titres of HCV RNA were <105 copies/ml in 77, 105-107 copies/ml in 25, and >107 copies/ml in seven. Eleven patients (10.1%) had fulminant hepatitis as a complication. Development of fulminant hepatitis did not correlate with age and gender of the patients, concurrent HGV infection, HCV genotypes, or serum titre of HCV RNA. However, the incidence (95% confidence interval) of fulminant hepatitis in patients with underlying chronic HBV infection was 23.1% (9.9 to 36.3%), which is significantly higher than in those without (2.9% (−1.0 to 6.8%)). In 39 patients with concurrent chronic HBV infection, the clinical and virological characteristics showed no significant difference between those with fulminant hepatitis and those without.
CONCLUSIONS—Acute hepatitis C in patients with concurrent chronic HBV infection is associated with a substantial risk of fulminant hepatitis.
Keywords: acute hepatitis C; fulminant hepatitis; hepatitis B virus; hepatitis C virus; hepatitis G virus