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Blood. 1999 Jun 1;93(11):3672-7.

Chronic hepatitis C virus infections in leukemia survivors: prevalence, viral load, and severity of liver disease.

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  • 1Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine and the Departments of Pathology and Pediatrics, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, USA.


The natural history of chronic hepatitis C (HCV) infections in long-term leukemia survivors has not been well characterized. We studied the prevalence of HCV infections, measured HCV RNA levels, and evaluated the severity of liver disease in patients with leukemia who achieved long-term remissions after intensive chemotherapy or bone marrow transplantation (BMT). HCV antibody tests were performed by the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and positive tests confirmed by the recombinant immunoblot assay (RIBA). HCV RNA levels were measured by the branched DNA (bDNA) assay. Seventy-five leukemia survivors with 25 or more blood donor exposures were identified. Nine (12%) were anti-HCV positive. All were infected before 1992 when second generation HCV screening tests were implemented. Mean HCV RNA levels were 10.3 x10(6) eq/mL versus 3.2 x 10(6) eq/mL (P =.056) in a control group of 20 anti-HCV positive immunocompetent individuals of comparable age who were infected twice as long (17.8 +/- 6.5 years v 9.0 +/- 4.4 years in leukemia survivors, P =.001). Liver biopsies were performed on six of the nine anti-HCV positive leukemia survivors. All showed at least moderate portal inflammation and half had evidence of bridging fibrosis. We conclude that viral loads in anti-HCV positive leukemia survivors are markedly higher than in immunocompetent controls. Our results suggest that long-term leukemia survivors with chronic HCV may have more rapidly progressive liver disease than has been previously recognized.

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