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Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 1996 Feb;8(2):125-9.

Liver steatosis and chronic hepatitis C: a spurious association?

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  • 1Istituto Policattedra, Universit√† di Bari, Italy.



Based on the observation of steatosis in the majority of liver biopsy specimens from hepatitis C virus (HCV) infected patients, it has been suggested that HCV may be pathogenetically implicated. We aimed to determine the influence of possible underlying metabolic disorders on this association.


In a series of 148 consecutive patients with chronic hepatitis, with and without HCV infection, we evaluated by logistic regression analysis the association between steatosis and HCV, controlling for diabetes, obesity, hyperlipidaemia and alcohol. These are all known to be factors associated with a fatty liver, and also with the histological degree of liver disease.


Antibodies to HCV were detected in 121 of 148 (81.8%) patients. Steatosis, distributed in different histological patterns, was found in 73 of 121 (60%) HCV-positive and in 14 of 27 (52%) HCV-negative patients (P = NS). Using simple logistic regression, the association Of HCV to steatosis was weak and not statistically significant (OR, 1.14; 95% CI, 0.61-3.27). The same was true for hyperlipidaemia (OR, 4.45; 95% CI, 0.52-37.9). A strong and statistically significant association was found, however, between obesity and steatosis (OR, 4.18) and between steatosis and the highest degree of histological severity (Liver cirrhosis vs chronic persistent hepatitis: OR, 12.8). Using multivariate analysis, the association between steatosis and HCV was shown to be not significant. Hyperlipidaemia, among all the independent variables tested, was shown to be co-linear with obesity.


Our findings seem to suggest that HCV is irrelevant as a risk factor for a fatty liver. The results indicated that there is a 'confounding' role of obesity and hyperlipidaemia, and that the severity of liver disease is associated with steatosis and HCV.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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