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Blood. 1996 Dec 15;88(12):4638-45.

Detection and distribution of hepatitis C virus-related proteins in lymph nodes of patients with type II mixed cryoglobulinemia and neoplastic or non-neoplastic lymphoproliferation.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Sciences and Human Oncology, University of Bari Medical School, Italy.


The role of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the pathogenesis of type II mixed cryoglobulinemia (MC) has been strongly emphasized in the last few years. Although MC is a benign lymphoproliferative disorder, the risk of overt B-cell malignancy greatly increases during its course. The occurrence of HCV infection in 10% to 30% of patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) suggests that this virus may have a role in the development of MC-associated B-cell malignancies. We identified 2 patients with hyperplastic reactive lymphadenopathy (HRL) and 12 with NHL in two series of MC patients chronically infected with HCV collected over a 5-year period. Structural and nonstructural HCV-related proteins were investigated in lymph node sections by immunohistochemistry and their location and distribution were correlated with clinical and histologic findings, viremic state, and HCV genotypes. In HRL, HCV proteins were found in the cytoplasm of lymphoid cells, mainly in interfollicular areas. However, occasional positive cells were found in the mantle zone and in the germinal centers of follicles. In addition, strong reactivity was found in the circulating mononuclear cells of capsular blood vessels. HCV immunodeposits were found in 3 of 12 (25%) NHL cases. Positive cells were frequently restricted to the cortex; if not, they were randomly diffused in the neoplastic tissue. Positivity was related to the low-grade type of NHL; in the 2 composite cases, HCV immunodetection was found in the small cells, whereas large anaplastic cells were regularly negative. Other viruses previously involved in lymphoproliferation, ie, human herpes virus-6 and Epstein-Barr virus, were absent in all tissues. These data emphasize that lymphoid organs may be a site of HCV infection. The demonstration of HCV-related proteins in a nonmalignant condition, namely HRL, indicates that HCV infection precedes the neoplastic transformation and possibly plays a major role in lymphomagenesis in MC.

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