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Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2009 Apr;7(3):293-308. doi: 10.1586/eri.09.3.

Hepatitis C and diabetes: the inevitable coincidence?

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy.


Type 2 diabetes (T2D) and HCV infection are common conditions involving, respectively, at least 170 and 130 million people worldwide. However, the distribution of such cases does not overlap in the same age groups in different geographic areas. Following pioneering reports of increased prevalence of T2D in HCV-positive cirrhosis, interest concerning the relationship between HCV and T2D has escalated. HCV is able to induce insulin resistance (IR) directly and the role of specific viral genotypes responsible for such effect is disputed. IR has consistently been found to be closely linked to fibrosis in HCV infection, although also typically associated with T2D in prefibrotic stages. HCV infection could be associated with a reduced prevalence of metabolic syndrome owing to virus-associated reduction in BMI (reported in population but not clinical studies) and hypobetaliproteinemia. A three- to ten-fold increased risk of HCV infection was reported among diabetic patients in comparison with different control groups and a meta-analysis showed a 1.8-fold excess risk of T2D among HCV-positive compared with HBV-positive patients. Moreover, HCV positivity is associated with an increased risk of T2D in patients receiving liver or kidney transplantations. T2D and IR are independent predictors of a more rapid progression of liver fibrosis and impaired response to antiviral treatment in chronic hepatitis C. Patients with cirrhosis and T2D have an increased susceptibility to hepatic encephalopathy and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, the beneficial effects of antiviral treatment on IR and T2D are controversial. Theoretically, glycemic control in chronic hepatitis C, and particularly in cirrhotic patients, could improve the prognosis and the response to antivirals, although the evidence for this is limited. Future studies should elucidate the relationship between insulin signaling, HCV and interferon signaling, entity of cardiovascular risk in patients with HCV infection, the potential role of 'metabolic' strategies added to antiviral treatment schedules, the impact of IR on liver failure, portal hypertension and HCC, particularly in patients managed in a transplant setting.

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