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J Hepatol. 1993 Jan;17(1):10-4.

Interest of the detection of hepatitis C virus RNA in patients with alcoholic liver disease. Comparison with the HBV status.

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Clinique d'Hépato-gastroentérologie, CHRU, Grenoble, France.


HCV-RNA detection was investigated in 66 chronic alcoholic patients divided into 3 groups according to the severity of liver injury: group 1 included 22 chronic alcoholics without cirrhosis, group 2, 20 patients with alcoholic cirrhosis and group 3, 24 patients with alcoholic cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. The 'nested' polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique amplifying the 5' non-coding region was used to detect HCV-RNA. For comparison, ELISA1, ELISA2 and RIBA2 tests (Ortho Diagnostics System) were also used to detect anti-HCV antibodies. Finally HBV markers (HBsAg, anti-HBc and anti-HBs antibodies) were detected in all patients as well as HBV-DNA by PCR. In group 1, only 1 patient (4.5%) showed an HCV-RNA-positive PCR, while 3 patients (13.6%) were found to have anti-HCV antibodies detected by RIBA2. In group 2, 3 patients (15%) showed positive PCRs, whereas 4 patients (20%) had anti-HCV antibodies. Finally, in group 3, the PCR was positive in 3 patients (12.5%), while 9 (37.5%) had anti-HCV antibodies. All patients with positive PCRs showed positive anti-HCV antibodies detected by second-generation assays. On the other hand, these patients often had past HBV infection markers but rarely had HBV-DNA detected by PCR. These results suggest that in chronic alcoholic patients, regardless of the severity of liver injury, HCV replication is rarely observed by PCR. Indeed, replication is only observed when anti-HCV antibody detection is positive in second-generation assays, particularly with strong reactivity against C33-C and C22-3 antigens. The relatively high prevalence of anti-HCV antibodies in this population compared to the usual rates could be explained by the age, geographic and perhaps even socioeconomic origin of the patients.

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