Chronic HCV infection combined with occult hepatitis B infection has been associated with liver enzymes flare, advanced hepatic fibrosis and cirrhosis, poor response to standard interferon-α, and increased risk of HCC. This study aimed to elucidate the prevalence of occult hepatitis B infection in Egyptian chronic HCV patients, and to clarify its role in non-response of those patients to pegylated interferon/ribavirin therapy. This study enrolled 155 consecutive chronic HCV patients under pegylated interferon/ribavirin therapy. All patients were exposed to clinical assessment, biochemical, histological and virological examinations. HBV parameters (HBV DNA, anti-HBc, anti-HBs) and patients' response status to the combination therapy were determined.
In this study, occult hepatitis B infection occurs in 3.9% of Egyptian chronic HCV patients; tends to affect younger age patients, associated with higher base line HCV viral load, less hepatic fibrosis than monoinfected patients. This occult hepatitis B infection is not a statistically significant cause of non-response to pegylated interferon/ribavirin therapy. Anti-HBs was not associated with any biochemical, histological or virological abnormalities in those patients, contrary to low response rate to therapy and higher HCV viral load that was observed with anti-HBc.
Detection of HBV DNA in HBsAg negative chronic HCV patients plays a non significant role in non-response of Egyptian patients to pegylated interferon/ribavirin therapy.
Occult hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, defined as the presence of HCV RNA in liver and in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in the absence of detectable viral RNA in serum by standard assays, can be found in anti-HCV positive patients with normal serum levels of liver enzymes and in anti-HCV negative patients with persistently elevated liver enzymes of unknown etiology. Occult HCV infection is distributed worldwide and all HCV genotypes seem to be involved in this infection. Occult hepatitis C has been found not only in anti-HCV positive subjects with normal values of liver enzymes or in chronic hepatitis of unknown origin but also in several groups at risk for HCV infection such as hemodialysis patients or family members of patients with occult HCV. This occult infection has been reported also in healthy populations without evidence of liver disease. Occult HCV infection seems to be less aggressive than chronic hepatitis C although patients affected by occult HCV may develop liver cirrhosis and even hepatocellular carcinoma. Thus, anti-HCV negative patients with occult HCV may benefit from antiviral therapy with pegylated-interferon plus ribavirin. The persistence of very low levels of HCV RNA in serum and in PBMCs, along with the maintenance of specific T-cell responses against HCV-antigens observed during a long-term follow-up of patients with occult hepatitis C, indicate that occult HCV is a persistent infection that is not spontaneously eradicated. This is an updated report on diagnosis, epidemiology and clinical implications of occult HCV with special emphasis on anti-HCV negative cases.
Occult hepatitis C virus; Hepatitis C virus RNA; Liver; Peripheral blood mononuclear cells; T-cell response
The imbalance of T-helper (Th) lymphocyte cytokine production may play an important role in immunopathogenesis of persistent hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. To know whether an imbalance between Th1 and Th2 cytokines is present in chronic HCV infection, serum levels of Th1 cytokines, interferon gamma (IFN-gamma) and interleukin (IL)-2, and Th2 cytokines, IL-4 and IL-10, were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in this study. Eighteen individuals with chronic HCV infection, 11 healthy subjects as normal controls and 10 chronic HBV infected patients as disease controls were observed. The results showed that the levels of Th2 cytokines (IL-4 and IL-10) were significantly increased in chronic HCV infected patients compared with normal controls (IL-4: 30.49+/-17.55 vs. 14.94+/-13.73, pg/ml, P<0.025; IL-10: 50.30+/-19.59 vs. 17.87+/-9.49, pg/ml, P<0.001). Similarly, the levels of Th1 cytokine, IL-2, was also elevated in individuals with chronic HCV infection when compared with normal controls (IL-2: 118.53+/-95.23 vs. 61.57+/-28.70, pg/ml, P<0.05). However, Th1 cytokine IFN-gamma level was not significantly changed during HCV infection (IFN-gamma: 28.09+/-15.65 vs. 24.10+/-15.61, pg/ml, P>0.05). Furthermore, the elevated levels of Th2 cytokines are greater than Th1 cytokines in HCV infection. Thus, the study indicates that an enhanced Th2 responses are present during chronic HCV infection, which may partly be responsible for the persistence of HCV infection.
Occult hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection (OBI) is frequently reported in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. An association between OBI and more liver damage, cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, and reduced response to interferon therapy in patients with HCV infection is suggested.
The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of occult HBV, and evaluate its clinical influence on patients with chronic HCV.
Patients and Methods
A cohort study including50 patients with positive results for HCV, and negative results for HBsAg tests was performed. The patients were divided into two groups: one group had positive results for both HCV and occult HBV tests (n = 18), and the other had positive results for HCV, but negative findings for occult HBV (n = 32). All were treated with PEG-IFN alpha-2a and Ribavirin. Presence of HCV RNA was followed in these patients.
HBV-DNA was detected using nested-PCR in 20% of plasma and 32.6% of peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) compartments. No significant differences were observed between patients with and without occult HBV for sex, age, duration of HCV infection, histological markers, presence of anti-HBc, HCV viral load, and HCV genotype. The response rate was significantly higher in patients with positive results for HBV-DNA test compared to those with negative findings (100% vs. 71.9 %, P < 0.05).
In conclusion, occult HBV was found in 36% of patients with negative results for HBsAg, but positive results for HCV. Detection of HBV-DNA in both PBMCs and plasma together in comparison with plasma alone provided more true identification of OBI.The SVR rate was significantly higher in coinfected patients than mono-infected ones.
Hepatitis B; Hepatitis C Virus; Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cell
A recently discovered occult HCV entity reported by various investigators seems to be highly controversial. Especially, the clinical significance of these findings remains uncertain. For optimal outcome of antiviral therapy, investigation of occult HCV needs a broad-based probe in order to investigate the results of viral therapy and its host/viral interaction. The current study was aimed at determining the prevalence of occult HCV in peripheral blood lymphocytes of predominantly genotype 3 HCV-infected patients after completion of antiviral therapy and to investigate long term outcomes in the presence or absence of PBMC positivity.
A total of 151 chronic, antiHCV and serum RNA-positive patients were enrolled in the study. Patients with a complete virological response at the end of treatment were screened for the presence of viral RNA in their PBMCs and were followed for up to one year for the presence of serum and PBMC viral genomic RNA.
Out of 151 patients, 104 (70%) responded to the prescribed interferon treatment and showed viral-clearance from serum. These were screened for the presence of genomic RNA in their PBMCs. Sixteen samples were PBMC-positive for viral RNA at the end of treatment (EOT). All these patients had also cleared the virus from peripheral blood cells after the 6-12 month follow-up study.
True occult hepatitis C virus does not exist in our cohort. Residual viremia at the EOT stage merely reflects a difference in viral kinetics in various compartments that remains a target of immune response even after the end of antiviral therapy and is eventually cleared out at the sustained viral response (SVR).
Antibody responses to the GOR autoepitope are frequently detected among anti-hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV)-positive patients with chronic hepatitis. Sera from 110 anti-HCV-negative patients with occult HCV infection, as diagnosed by detection of HCV RNA in hepatic tissue, were investigated for GOR antibody reactivity. A positive test for anti-GOR immunoglobulin G (IgG) was found for 22 (20%) of them. The frequency and titers of anti-GOR IgG were significantly lower than those in chronic hepatitis C patients (70/110, 63.6%; P < 0.001). Anti-GOR IgG was not detected in any of the 120 patients with HCV-unrelated liver disease. The anti-GOR IgG assay showed specificity and sensitivity values of 100% and 20%, respectively, among the sera from patients with occult HCV infection; the positive and negative predictive values were 100% and 44.3%, respectively. None of the clinical, laboratory, or histological characteristics of the patients with occult HCV infection were different according to GOR antibody status, except that the percentage of HCV RNA-positive hepatocytes was significantly greater (P = 0.042) in patients with occult HCV infection who tested positive for anti-GOR IgG. In conclusion, serum anti-GOR IgG is present in patients with occult HCV infection, despite a lack of detectable HCV-specific antibodies as determined by commercial tests. Testing for anti-GOR IgG in patients in whom HCV RNA is not detected in their sera may help with the identification of a subset of patients with occult HCV infection without the need to perform a liver biopsy.
Background. Occult hepatitis C virus infection (OCI) was identified as a new form of Hepatitis C virus (HCV), characterized by undetectable HCV antibodies and HCV RNA in serum, while HCV RNA is detectable in liver and peripheral blood cells only. Aim. The aim of this study was to investigate the occurrence of OCI in Egyptian patients with lymphoproliferative disorders (LPDs) and to compare its prevalence with that of HCV in those patients. Subjects and Methods. The current study included 100 subjects, 50 of them were newly diagnosed cases having different lymphoproliferative disorders (patients group), and 50 were apparently healthy volunteers (controls group). HCV antibodies were detected by ELISA, HCV RNA was detected in serum and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction(RT-PCR), and HCV genotype was detected by INNO-LiPA. Results. OCI was detected in 20% of patients group, compared to only 4% OCI in controls group. HCV was detected in 26% of patients group with a slightly higher prevalence. There was a male predominance in both HCV and OCI. All HCV positive patients were genotype 4. Conclusion. Our data revealed occurrence of occult HCV infection in Egyptian LPD patients at a prevalence of 20% compared to 26% of HCV.
Background: Occult hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is characterised by the presence of HCV-RNA in the liver in the absence of anti-HCV, and serum viral RNA. Up to 70% of these patients also have HCV-RNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) but it is not known if HCV is replicating in these cells.
Aim: We studied possible HCV replication in PBMC of 18 patients with an occult HCV infection who were selected on the basis of HCV-RNA positivity in PBMC.
Methods: Detection of HCV-RNA positive and negative strands in PBMC was done by strand specific reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and by in situ hybridisation.
Results: The presence of HCV-RNA positive strand in PBMC was confirmed in all patients by strand specific RT-PCR and by in situ hybridisation. Mean percentage of PBMC which had the HCV-RNA positive strand was 3.3% (95% confidence interval (CI) 2.1–4.4) The HCV-RNA negative strand was found in the PBMC of 11/18 (61%) patients by strand specific RT-PCR and confirmed by in situ hybridisation, and the percentage of PBMC harbouring the HCV-RNA negative strand was 3.1% (95% CI 0.8–5.5). There was a significant correlation (p = 0.001, r = 0.84) between the percentage of PBMC with the HCV-RNA positive strand and that of PBMC with the HCV-RNA negative strand.
Conclusion: HCV replicates in the PBMC of patients with occult HCV infection and thus, although these patients do not have serum HCV-RNA, they could be potentially infectious.
hepatitis C virus; peripheral blood mononuclear cells; fluorescent in situ hybridisation
Occult hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a type of recently identified chronic infection that is evidenced only by detection of HCV RNA in liver; patients consistently test negative for antibodies to HCV and HCV RNA in serum. Using ex vivo and in vitro measures of T-cell responses, we have identified functional virus-specific memory CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in the peripheral blood of patients with occult HCV infection. The features of the virus-specific T cells were consistent with immune surveillance functions, supporting previous exposure to HCV. In addition, the magnitudes of CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses were in parallel and correlated inversely with the extent of liver HCV infection. The detection of HCV-specific T cells in individuals in whom HCV RNA can persist in the liver despite the absence of viremia and antibodies indicates that HCV replication is prolonged in the face of virus-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses. These findings demonstrate that HCV-specific cellular immune responses are markers not only of previous exposure to and recovery from HCV but also of ongoing occult HCV infection.
Chronic hepatitis B virus infection is characterized by persistent detectable levels of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and HBV DNA in the serum. In contrast, HBsAg is not detectable during occult HBV infection, despite the presence of HBV DNA. An altered host immune response could play a role in the development of occult HBV infection; however, potential differences in immune responses among chronic and occult HBV-infected patients have not been evaluated in vivo. In the current study, we evaluated serum levels of regulatory, apoptotic, and fibrotic/anti-fibrotic cytokines/markers as indicators of immune responses in 25 chronic and 12 occult HBV-infected patients. More than half of the patients in both chronic and occult HBV infection groups had IL-2, IL-4, IL-13, and IFN-γ levels below detectable limits. In contrast, most patients had detectable levels of IL-8, IL-10, IP-10, sFas, sFasL, and TGF-β1. Of these, only sFas was significantly different between the two groups, with lower levels observed during occult compared to chronic HBV infection (p = 0.01). As a surrogate marker of apoptotic inhibition, decreased sFas during occult HBV infection suggests that apoptosis occurs at different rates in occult compared to chronic HBV infection and therefore, may contribute to persistence of occult HBV infection.
Cytokine; HBV/HIV co-infection; Occult hepatitis B virus; Soluble Fas (sFas)
Occult hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection of patients with abnormal liver function tests of unknown origin who are anti-HCV and serum HCV RNA negative but who have HCV RNA in the liver has been described. As HCV replicates in the liver cells of these patients, it could be that the amount of circulating viral particles is under the detection limit of the most sensitive techniques. To prove this hypothesis, serum samples from 106 patients with occult HCV infection were analyzed. Two milliliters of serum was ultracentrifuged over a 10% sucrose cushion for 17 h at 100,000 × gav, where av means average, and HCV RNA detection was performed by strand-specific real-time PCR. Out of the 106 patients, 62 (58.5%) had detectable serum HCV RNA levels after ultracentrifugation, with a median load of 70.5 copies/ml (range, 18 to 192). Iodixanol density gradient studies revealed that HCV RNA was positive at densities of 1.03 to 1.04 and from 1.08 to 1.19 g/ml, which were very similar to those found in the sera of patients with classical chronic HCV infection. Antigenomic HCV RNA was found in the livers of 56 of 62 (90.3%) patients with detectable serum HCV RNA levels after ultracentrifugation, compared to 27 of 44 (61.4%) negative patients (P < 0.001). No differences in the median loads of antigenomic HCV RNA between patients with an those without serum HCV RNA (4.5 × 104 [range, 7.9 × 102 to 1.0 × 106] versus 2.3 × 104 [range, 4.0 × 102 to 2.2 × 105]) were found. Alanine aminotransferase and gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase levels, liver necroinflammatory activity, and fibrosis did not differ between both groups. In conclusion, HCV RNA can be detected in the sera of patients with occult HCV infection after circulating viral particles are concentrated by ultracentrifugation.
Occult Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a new pathological entity characterized by presence of liver disease and absence or very low levels of detectable HCV-RNA in serum. Abnormal values of liver enzymes and presence of replicative HCV-RNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells are also observed. Aim of the study was to evaluate occult HCV occurrence in a population unselected for hepatic disease.
We chose from previous epidemiological studies three series of subjects (n = 276, age range 40–65 years) unselected for hepatic disease. These subjects were tested for the presence of HCV antibodies and HCV-RNA in plasma and in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) by using commercial systems. All subjects tested negative for HCV antibodies and plasma HCV-RNA and showed normal levels of liver enzymes; 9/276 patients (3.3%) were positive for HCV-RNA in PBMCs, identifying a subset of subjects with potential occult HCV infection. We could determine the HCV type for 8 of the 9 patients finding type 1a (3 patients), type 1b (2 patients), and type 2a (3 patients).
The results of this study show evidence that occult HCV infection may occur in a population unselected for hepatic disease. A potential risk of HCV infection spread by subjects harbouring occult HCV infection should be considered. Design of prospective studies focusing on the frequency of infection in the general population and on the clinical evolution of occult HCV infection will be needed to verify this unexpected finding.
Objective and Background
The roles of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) co-infection (CI) in carcinogenesis of hepatitis C virus (HCV)-associated hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remained controversial. To gain new insights into this issue, we investigated the postoperative prognostic value of HBVCI in HCV-associated HCC.
A study cohort of 115 liver tissues obtained from the noncancerous parts of surgically removed HCV-associated HCCs were subjected to virological analysis in a tertiary care setting. Assayed factors included clinicopathological variables, tissue amounts of viral genomes, genotypic characterization of viruses, as well as the presence of overt (serum HBsAg positive) or occult (serum HBsAg negative but tissue HBV-DNA positive) HBVCI. Cox proportional hazard model was used to estimate postoperative survivals.
Of the 115 patients, overt and occult HBVCIs were detected in 35 and 16 patients, respectively. Multivariate analysis revealed that tumor size >3 cm (adjusted hazard ratio (AHR), 2.079 [95% confidence interval, 1.149∼3.761]), alpha-fetoprotein >8 ng/mL (AHR, 5.976 [2.007∼17.794]) albumin <4 g/dL(AHR, 2.539 [1.399∼4.606]), ALT >50 U/L (AHR,1.086 [1.006∼1.172]), presence of occult HBVCI (AHR, 2.708 [1.317∼5.566]), and absence of overt HBVCI (AHR, 2.216 [1.15∼4.269]) were independently associated with unfavorable disease-free survival. Patients with occult HBVCI had a shorter disease-free (P = 0.002), a shorter overall survival (P = 0.026), a higher bilirubin level (P = 0.003) and a higher prevalence of precore G1896A mutation (P = 0.006) compared with those with overt HBVCI.
Occult and overt HBVCI served as independent predictors for postoperative survival in HCV-associated HCC.
Hepatitis C virus-specific in vitro antibody production (HCV IVAP) by peripheral blood lymphocytes in 53 HCV antibody-positive patients was investigated in comparison with alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels and HCV RNA in serum samples. All 29 HCV IVAP-positive patients were HCV RNA positive; 26 had elevated ALT levels. Among the 24 HCV IVAP-negative patients, 16 were HCV RNA negative, with 12 presenting normal ALT values. These data indicate that HCV IVAP results are highly correlated (P < 0.001) with HCV RNA results and ALT levels. Our study indicates that HCV IVAP can be used as a novel assay in the diagnosis and pathogenesis exploration of HCV infection.
Relationship of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in HIV-infected patients remains controversial. We evaluated endothelial function and subclinical atherosclerosis in HIV-infected patients with and without HCV.
Flow-mediated dilatation (FMD) of the brachial artery and circulating levels of cell adhesion molecules (CAM) were measured in HCV/HIV-coinfected and HIV-monoinfected patients. Subclinical atherosclerosis was assessed by carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT).
63 (31%) HCV/HIV-coinfected and 138 (69%) HIV-monoinfected patients were included. Median soluble vascular CAM-1 (sVCAM-1) and intercellular CAM-1 (sICAM-1) levels were significantly higher in HIV/HCV-coinfected patients (P < 0.001 for both cases). Median (interquartile range) FMD was 6.21% (2.86-9.62) in HCV/HIV-coinfected and 5.54% (2.13-9.13) in HIV-monoinfected patients (P = 0.37). Adjustment for variables associated with HCV and FMD disclosed similar results. FMD correlated inversely with cIMT and age. Carotid IMT did not differ between HCV/HIV-coinfected and HIV-monoinfected patients in unadjusted (0.61 [0.55-0.65] mm vs 0.60 [0.53-0.72] mm; P = 0.39) or adjusted analyses.
HCV infection was associated with higher levels of sICAM-1 and sVCAM-1, but no evidence of increased subclinical atherosclerosis was found when endothelial function was evaluated through FMD, or when assessing the cIMT.
Background—The clinical significance of a single
assessment of circulating hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA and its relation
to the level of intrahepatic HCV RNA remains unclear.
Aims—To investigate the relation between
intrahepatic HCV levels and clinicopathological characteristics of
chronic HCV infection.
Patients—Ninety eight consecutive patients with
chronic HCV infection were studied; none had received α interferon
therapy. Of these, 12 patients were repeatedly negative for HCV RNA in serum by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).
Methods—After diagnostic laparoscopy and liver
biopsy, semiquantitative analysis of intrahepatic HCV RNA levels was
carried out by limiting dilution of HCV cDNA. HCV genotypes were
assessed in 96 patients by restriction fragment length polymorphism
analysis of HCV cDNA.
Results—Ten out of 12 patients who were RT-PCR
negative for HCV RNA in serum were RT-PCR positive in liver; however,
this group had a significantly lower intrahepatic HCV level and serum aminotransferase level than the remaining 86 patients. Histological severity (cirrhosis: n=10); histological activity index; HCV genotype (genotype 1: n=41; genotype 2: n=12; genotype 3: n=36; genotype 4:
n=7); mode of infection (intravenous drug abuse: n=58;
post-transfusion: n=10; haemophiliac: n=4; sporadic: n=26) and alcohol
abuse did not affect the intrahepatic virus level. There was no
correlation between patient age, duration of infection, and
intrahepatic HCV level.
Conclusions—Intrahepatic virus levels were not
determined by host factors (age of patient, mode or duration of
infection) or by virus factors (HCV genotype). Repeatedly negative
RT-PCR for HCV RNA in serum does not indicate absence of HCV from the liver.
intrahepatic hepatitis C virus; chronic hepatitis C
Background. The prognostic importance of α-fetoprotein (AFP) level elevation in patients with chronic hepatitis C and its clinical significance in steatosis associated with HCV infection remain to be determined. The present paper assessed clinical significance of elevated AFP in patients with CHC with and without steatosis. Methods. One hundred patients with CHC were divided into 50 patients with CHC and steatosis and 50 patients with CHC and no steatosis based on liver biopsy.
Results. AFP was significantly increased in CHC with steatosis than patients without steatosis (P < 0.001). Highly significant positive correlation was found between serum AFP and necroinflammation as well as the severity of fibrosis/cirrhosis and negative significant correlation with albumin level in chronic HCV with steatosis (P < 0.001) but negative nonsignificant correlation with ALT and AST level (P ≤ 0.778 and 0.398), respectively. Highly significant increase was found in chronic hepatitis patients with steatosis than CHC without steatosis regarding necroinflammation as well as the severity of fibrosis/cirrhosis and AFP (P < 0.001). Conclusion. Patients with chronic HCV and steatosis have a higher AFP levels than those without steatosis. In chronic HCV with steatosis, elevated AFP levels correlated positively with HAI and negative significant correlation with albumin level.
Occult hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is defined as persistence of HBV DNA in liver tissues, with or without detectability of HBV DNA in the serum, in individuals with negative serum HBV surface antigen (HBsAg). Despite accumulating evidence suggesting its important clinical roles, the molecular and virological basis of occult hepatitis B remains unclear. In an attempt to establish new hepatoma cell lines, we achieved a new cell line derived from a hepatoma patient with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) and occult HBV infection. Characterization of this cell line revealed previously unrecognized properties. Two novel human hepatoma cell lines were established. Hep-Y1 was derived from a male hepatoma patient negative for HCV and HBV infection. Hep-Y2 was derived from a female hepatoma patient suffering from chronic HCV and occult HBV infection. Morphological, cytogenetic and functional studies were performed. Permissiveness to HBV infection was assessed. Both cell lines showed typical hepatocyte-like morphology under phase-contrast and electron microscopy and expressed alpha-fetoprotein, albumin, transferrin, and aldolase B. Cytogenetic analysis revealed extensive chromosomal anomalies. An extrachromosomal form of HBV DNA persisted in the nuclear fraction of Hep-Y2 cells, while no HBsAg was detected in the medium. After treated with 2% dimethyl sulfoxide, both cell lines were permissive for exogenous HBV infection with transient elevation of the replication intermediates in the cytosol with detectable viral antigens by immunoflurescence analysis. In conclusions, we established two new hepatoma cell lines including one from occult HBV infection (Hep-Y2). Both cell lines were permissive for HBV infection. Additionally, Hep-Y2 cells carried persistent extrachromosomal HBV DNA in the nuclei. This cell line could serve as a useful tool to establish the molecular and virological basis of occult HBV infection.
Although occult hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections in individuals without detectable hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) may occur and have been reported to be common in patients with chronic hepatitis C, the clinical relevance remains controversial. We searched for serum HBV DNA in 210 HBsAg-negative patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related liver disease (110 patients with chronic hepatitis, 50 patients with cirrhosis, and 50 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma) by PCR. Most of the patients had detectable antibodies to HBsAg or HBV core antigen. All of the 110 chronic hepatitis C patients were treated with a combination therapy consisting of interferon plus ribavirin. In addition, 100 HBsAg-negative healthy adults served as controls. Thirty-one of the 210 patients (14.8%) had HBV DNA in their sera, as did 15 of the 100 healthy controls (15%). HBV DNA was not detected in the sera of those negative for serological markers of HBV infection. In patients with chronic HCV infection, the prevalence of occult HBV infection did not parallel the severity of liver disease (14.5% in patients with chronic hepatitis, 8% in patients with liver cirrhosis, and 22% in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma). In addition, the sustained response to combination therapy against hepatitis C was comparable between patients with and without occult HBV infection (38 versus 39%). In conclusion, these data suggest that occult HBV infection does not have clinical significance in chronic hepatitis C patients residing in areas where HBV infection is endemic.
High levels of profibrinogenic cytokine transforming factor beta (TGF-β), metalloprotease (MMP2), and tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloprotease 1 (TIMP1) contribute to fibrogenesis in hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and in alcohol-induced liver disease (ALD). The aim of our study was to correlate noninvasive serum markers in ALD and HCV patients with various degrees of inflammation and fibrosis in their biopsies. Methods. Serum cytokines levels in HCV-infected individuals in the presence or absence of ALD were measured. Student's-t-test with Bonferroni correction determined the significance between the groups. Results. Both tumor-necrosis-factor- (TNF)-α and TGF-β levels increased significantly with the severity of inflammation and fibrosis. TGF-β levels increased significantly in ALD patients versus the HCV patients. Proinflammatory cytokines' responses to viral and/or toxic injury differed with the severity of liver inflammation. A combination of these markers was useful in predicting and diagnosing the stages of inflammation and fibrosis in HCV and ALD. Conclusion. Therapeutic monitoring of TGF-β and metalloproteases provides important insights into fibrosis.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a global medical problem. The current standard treatment of chronic hepatitis C (CHC), pegylated interferon plus ribavirin, is prolonged, expensive, has serious side effects and, at best, is only 50% effective. Silymarin is a natural antioxidant often used by patients with CHC, although its efficacy for decreasing HCV levels or ameliorating CHC remains uncertain. HCV infection is associated with increased hepatic oxidative stress, and one of the antioxidant enzymes which protect cells against this stress is heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1).
We investigated effects of silymarin on HCV and HO-1 gene expression in Huh-7 cells, CNS3, and 9-13 cells (the latter two stably expressing HCV-proteins).
Silymarin significantly down-regulated HCV core mRNA (by 20% - 36%) and protein (by 30%-60%) in CNS3 cells. In contrast, silymarin did not decrease HCV NS5A mRNA or protein expression in 9-13 cells. HO-1 mRNA was up-regulated (60%-400%) by silymarin in Huh-7, CNS3 and 9-13 cells, whereas Bach1 and Nrf2 mRNA levels were not affected. The effect of silymarin to down-regulate HCV core was not related to changes in the Jak-Stat signaling pathway.
Silymarin may be of benefit in CHC, although prospective, randomized, controlled trials are needed to be certain.
Bach1; heme oxygenase-1; hepatitis C; interferon; silymarin
The clinical significance of occult hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, defined as the presence of HBV DNA in individuals with HBV core antibodies (anti-HBc) in the absence of HBV surface antigen (HBsAg), is unclear in HIV-infected patients. This information is needed to determine the importance of detecting and treating occult HBV in this population.
To determine if HIV-infected patients with occult HBV infection have an increased incidence of transaminitis.
We performed a cohort study among randomly-selected HBsAg−/anti-HBc+ HIV-infected patients in the Penn CFAR Database and Specimen Repository. HBV DNA was qualitatively detected using a transcription-mediated amplification assay. Hepatic transaminase levels, the main study outcome, were collected at 6-month intervals from the time of occult HBV determination.
Among 97 randomly-selected subjects without baseline transaminitis, 13 (13%) had occult HBV. These subjects more frequently had detectable HIV RNA. The two-year incidence of transaminitis among HIV-infected subjects with occult HBV (50 events/100 person-years) was not significantly different from those without occult HBV (38 events/100 person-years; adjusted incidence rate ratio=1.36 [95% CI, 0.72-2.59]).
Occult HBV did not increase the incidence of hepatic transaminitis over two years. Future studies should determine whether occult HBV is associated with other clinically important outcomes, particularly hepatocellular carcinoma.
occult hepatitis B virus; HIV/hepatitis B virus coinfection; HIV; transaminitis
BACKGROUND/AIM: A novel fluorescent enzyme immunoassay (FEIA) for the detection and quantification of serum hepatitis C virus (HCV) core protein was developed. The aim of this study was to evaluate the relation among serum HCV core protein level, HCV RNA level, and HCV genotype in patients with chronic HCV infection. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Serum HCV core protein, HCV RNA, HCV genotype were determined in 175 patients using the FEIA, branched DNA assay (Quantiplex HCV RNA ver 1.0), and serologically defined genotyping assay, respectively. For the specificity, all 13 patients seronegative for anti-HCV were negative for serum core antigen and HCV RNA by FEIA and bDNA, respectively. RESULTS: FEIA assay seems to be more sensitive than bDNA for patients with HCV type 2 infection (detection: 83.4% v 63.4%, p < 0.01). There was a good overall correlation between the FEIA and bDNA results. However, when the patients were stratified into their HCV types, a correlation was observed in HCV type 1 but not in type 2 infection. Patients with HCV type 2 infection had a lower serum HCV core protein level (median 56 RFI) compared with type 1 infection (median 149 RFI, p < 0.01). Thirty seven patients subsequently received interferon alpha therapy, patients who showed a complete and sustained response had a lower pretreatment serum HCV core protein level compared with patients who had a relapse and nonresponders (36 v 338 RFI, p < 0.01). CONCLUSIONS: This study showed that FEIA (1) is a good assay for the detection and quantification of serum HCV core protein level, (2) is also very sensitive in detecting HCV core protein in patients with HCV type 2 infection, and (3) may have a role as a predictor of subsequent response to interferon therapy.
In this work, we have shown that hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) can coexist in the same hepatocyte using double fluorescent in situ hybridization in liver biopsy samples from patients with chronic HCV infection with occult HBV infection. Digital image analysis of hybridization signals showed that the HBV DNA levels in coinfected hepatocytes were lower than those in cells infected only with HBV. This finding supports the hypothesis of inhibition of HBV replication by HCV. Furthermore, HCV RNA levels were lower in coinfected cells than in cells infected only with HCV, suggesting that HBV may also inhibit HCV replication.
Approximately 200 million people throughout the world are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). One of the most striking features of HCV infection is its high propensity to establish persistence (∼70–80%) and progressive liver injury. Galectins are evolutionarily conserved glycan-binding proteins with diverse roles in innate and adaptive immune responses. Here, we demonstrate that galectin-9, the natural ligand for the T cell immunoglobulin domain and mucin domain protein 3 (Tim-3), circulates at very high levels in the serum and its hepatic expression (particularly on Kupffer cells) is significantly increased in patients with chronic HCV as compared to normal controls. Galectin-9 production from monocytes and macrophages is induced by IFN-γ, which has been shown to be elevated in chronic HCV infection. In turn, galectin-9 induces pro-inflammatory cytokines in liver-derived and peripheral mononuclear cells; galectin-9 also induces anti-inflammatory cytokines from peripheral but not hepatic mononuclear cells. Galectin-9 results in expansion of CD4+CD25+FoxP3+CD127low regulatory T cells, contraction of CD4+ effector T cells, and apoptosis of HCV-specific CTLs. In conclusion, galectin-9 production by Kupffer cells links the innate and adaptive immune response, providing a potential novel immunotherapeutic target in this common viral infection.