Hepatitis C virus carriers with persistently normal ALT levels: biological peculiarities and update of the natural history of liver disease at 10 years

May 28, 2006 at 10:04 pm Leave a comment

Journal of Viral Hepatitis May 2006 Vol.13 N.5 P.290 

M. Persico1, S. Perrotta2, E. Persico1, L. Terracciano3, A. Folgori4, L. Ruggeri4, A. Nicosia4, R. Vecchione3, V. L. Mura1, M. Masarone1 and R. Torella1

Summary. Some chronic hepatitis C (CHC) patients exhibit persistently normal alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels (PNAL).

Patients with PNAL experience significantly milder disease. In order to understand the differences between CHC patients with elevated ALT levels compared with those with PNAL better, we compared epidemiological, immunological and histological findings, in particular, the value of proliferating hepatocyte activity (PCNA) between the two groups of patients.

We studied 40 chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) carriers with increased ALT who underwent liver biopsy for histological diagnosis and determination of clinical prognosis, and 24 PNAL patients under follow-up for 10 years. Immunological response to different HCV genomic epitopes was tested in both the control group and in PNAL subjects. PCNA values from liver specimens of all patients as well as liver biopsies of PNAL patients at time points 0 and 5 years were calculated according to Hall et al.Age, sex and body mass index (BMI) were not significantly different between the two groups. The median liver histology stage was significantly higher in HCV carriers vs the PNAL group (2.5, range = 2–6 vs 1.5, range = 1–2; P < 0.01).

Among PNAL patients, histological stage was not statistically different at the three time points considered. Interferon (IFN)-gamma production was comparable in the two groups. PCNA was significantly higher in the group with elevated ALT levels vs the PNAL group (8%, range = 4–15%vs 5% range = 3–8%; P < 0.05) and no statistically significant differences were found in PNAL patients at time points 0, 5 and 10 years.

This study confirms that progression to cirrhosis is slow or absent in PNAL patients after 10 years of follow-up. Accordingly, the hepatic proliferative activity index is low and seems to be stable over time.

Entry filed under: Hepatitis C, Update.

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