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J Hepatol. 2005 Oct;43(4):599-605.

A follow-up study to determine the value of liver biopsy and need for antiviral therapy for hepatitis C virus carriers with persistently normal serum aminotransferase.

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Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Graduate School of Medical Science, Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto 602-8566, Japan.



Long-term follow-up study was performed to identify the candidates for antiviral therapy for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among carriers with persistently normal aminotransferase (ALT< or = 30 U/L) levels (PNAL).


One hundred and twenty-nine HCV carriers with PNAL who underwent liver biopsy and had platelet count over 150,000/microl were entered and 69 were followed for over 5 years. Thirty-five patients underwent serial liver biopsies. Serum ferritin and thioredoxin levels were also determined.


Seventeen patients had normal liver histology, 10 had moderate chronic hepatitis and the remainder 102 had mild hepatitis. Serum ferritin and thioredoxin levels were normal. The mean follow-up period for the 69 patients was 8.5 years. Of these 69 patients, 10 had persistently normal ALT levels (group A), 39 had transient elevation of ALT (group B), and 20 changed to symptomatic chronic hepatitis (group C). The rate of progression of fibrosis for groups A, B, and C were 0.05, 0.04, and 0.08, respectively. Hepatocellular carcinoma was not diagnosed in any of the patients.


Around 90% of HCV carriers with PNAL have normal to mild liver histology. This long-term follow-up study demonstrated that 30% of such carriers became candidates for antiviral therapy within 5 years.

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