A role for chronic hepatitis C virus infection in a patient with cutaneous vasculitis, cryoglobulinemia, and chronic liver disease
A six-year history of repeated attacks of fatigue, fever, arthralgias, skin changes, Raynaud's phenomenon, and neuropathy is reported in a patient with chronic liver disease. The following diagnoses were made: (1) leukocytoclastic vasculitis; (2) acute urticaria; (3) cryoglobulinemia type II with Raynaud's phenomenon and low serum level of C4; (4) peripheral polyneuropathy; (5) sicca syndrome; and (6) chronic hepatitis C virus infection. Despite therapy with corticosteroids symptoms increased gradually over years. In the first PCR of the nested PCR analysis, HCV-RNA was exclusively detected in the cryoglobulin fraction but not in the serum supernatant, suggesting that antibodies bind HCV particles, forming circulating immune complexes. As diagnoses 1-5 are well-known organ manifestations of cryoglobulinemia, we speculated whether treatment of hepatitis C with IFN-μ (3 million IU IFN-μ2b three times a week) would inhibit HCV replication, decrease the cryocrit level and thereby ameliorate organ manifestations such as neuropathy and vasculities. During treatment with IFN-μ only a very weak or no signal could be detected for HCV-RNA in the cryoglobulin fraction as well as in the serum supernatant. This held true also for the serum supernatant in the second PCR. In parallel, cryoglobulin level, immunoglobulins, and liver enzymes decreased substantially to normal or near normal levels. Clinical symptoms—leukocytoclastic vasculitis and neuropathy—disappeared. We conclude that chronic HCV infection is involved in the pathogenesis of cryoglobulinemia and that IFN-μ might be an effective treatment in these patients.
Key wordshepatitis C vasculitis cryoglobulinemia interferon-α
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