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Ital J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 1998 Aug;30(4):396-401.

Evaluation of iron status in patients with chronic hepatitis C.

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Department of Biological and Clinical Sciences, University of Turin, Italy.



To evaluate the prevalence of iron overload in chronic hepatitis C and its relationship with liver histology.


Serum iron, unsaturated iron binding capacity and ferritin levels were determined in 204 consecutive anti-hepatitis C virus positive subjects, whereas hepatic iron concentration, hepatic histological grading and staging, hepatitis C virus genotypes were further assessed in a subgroup of 50 patients who underwent liver biopsy for chronic hepatitis.


An increase in the serum markers of iron metabolism was more frequently found in subjects with aminotransferase activities above the normal range, whereas hepatic iron overload, established by direct hepatic iron determination, was found only in 9/50 (18%) patients with chronic hepatitis C. No serum iron marker could reliably predict hepatic iron stores. Patients with mild iron overload usually showed active hepatitis and fibrosis, whereas iron overload was not present in patients without fibrosis or with very mild fibrosis. Two out of nine patients with iron overload were shown to be beta thalassaemia heterozygous, and two were heterozygous carriers of a putative haemochromatosis gene mutation (His63Asp).


Many anti-hepatitis C virus positive patients with elevated aminotransferase activities have serum ferritin levels above the normal range, but only a minority of patients with chronic hepatitis C have a mild iron overload. In chronic hepatitis C, a relationship does exist between hepatic iron content and liver fibrosis.

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