Natural History of Acute Symptomatic Hepatitis Type C
- Cite this article as:
- Wawrzynowicz-Syczewska, M., Kubicka, J., Lewandowski, Z. et al. Infection (2004) 32: 138. doi:10.1007/s15010-004-3062-8
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Spontaneous clearance of hepatitis C virus (HCV) after acute hepatitis C, and the course of chronic HCV infection in patients who did not clear the virus, were studied.
Patients and Methods:
Patients with acute C or non-A, non-B hepatitis who were hospitalized between 1988 and 1998 were called for evaluation in 2001. They were tested for anti-HCV, serum HCV-RNA, HCV-RNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and liver enzymes. A liver biopsy was performed on chronically infected patients. The course of acute hepatitis C was compared between HCV-RNA-positive and negative subjects to look for factors that might influence spontaneous viral clearance. Factors influencing more progressive liver disease were analyzed in chronic hepatitis C.
Out of 159 acute hepatitis C patients, 77 (48.4%) participated in the study, and the median observation time was 8 years. Spontaneous clearance of serum HCV was found in 23 subjects (29.9%), but in two cases HCV-RNA was detected in peripherical blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). Only three patients negative for HCV-RNA in serum and PBMC lost anti-HCV. Severity of acute HCV infection and previous alcohol abuse seemed to influence resolution. In non-alcoholic patients, older age at time of primary infection was a significant predictor of virus clearance. In chronic hepatitis C, more than 75% of patients had minimal or mild activity in biopsy, but 40% had advanced fibrosis. Older age at infection, male gender, alcohol abuse, and higher iron content were connected with advanced fibrosis.
Studies on HCV infection resolution should include at least PBMC testing for HCV-RNA. A healthy carrier state of HCV can be discussed. A longer observation time increased the likelihood of seroreversion. Fibrosis in chronic hepatitis C probably is not a direct result of inflammatory activity.