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AIDS. 2005 Oct;19 Suppl 3:S53-63.

A review of cognitive impairment and cerebral metabolite abnormalities in patients with hepatitis C infection.

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Liver Unit, Division of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, St Mary's Hospital Campus, London, UK.


Numerous studies have reported associations between chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and fatigue, depression and impairments in health-related quality of life, which are independent of the severity of liver disease. Although there are a large number of potential explanations for these symptoms, including a history of substance abuse and associated personality types, or the effect of the diagnosis of HCV infection itself, there has been recent interest in the possibility of a biological effect of HCV infection on cerebral function. There is emerging evidence of mild, but significant neurocognitive impairment in HCV infection, which cannot be wholly attributed to substance abuse, co-existent depression or hepatic encephalopathy. Impairments are predominantly in the domains of attention, concentration and information processing speed. Furthermore, in-vivo cerebral magnetic resonance spectroscopy studies in patients with hepatitis C and normal liver function have reported elevations in cerebral choline-containing compounds and reductions in N-acetyl aspartate, suggesting that a biological mechanism may underlie the cognitive findings. The recent detection of HCV genetic sequences in post-mortem brain tissue raises the intriguing possibility that HCV infection of the central nervous system may be related to the reported neuropsychological symptoms and cognitive impairment.

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