, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 8-13

Evidence for hepatitis B virus infection in patients with chronic hepatitis C with and without serological markers of hepatitis B

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To assess the influence of HBV infection on anti-HCV-positive chronic liver disease, we performed a prospective case-control study comparing 19 HBsAg-positive, anti-HCV-positive patients with 38 HBsAg-negative, anti-HCV-positive patients, pair-matched for age, sex, and ALT levels. HBV and HCV infections were investigated by standard serology and polymerase chain reaction. HCV RNA was found in all patients with CAH and in 90.0% with cirrhosis (33% HBsAg-positive). HBV DNA sequences were found, in the HBsAg-positive subjects, in 71.4% of CAH and in 83.3% of cirrhotics; in the HBsAg-negative ones, only 10% of CAH but 77.7% of cirrhotics had demonstrable HBV DNA sequences. Consequently, 80.0% of cirrhotics had evidence of both HBV and HCV infection. Conventional serology gives partial information on the true occurrence of HBV infection in HBsAg-negative patients, while PCR defines more accurately the HBV status. When the rate of double infection is defined in this way, it correlates with the presence of cirrhosis.

This work was supported by grants 40% (Progetto Virus) of MURST (Ministero dell'Università e della Ricerca Scientifica) and AIRC (Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro). A.G. is a recipient of a fellowship from Wellcome Italia.