High prevalence of infection with hepatitis G virus in patients with hepatic and extrahepatic malignancies

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Abstract

Background/Aims:

The pathogenic role of hepatitis G virus, the recently discovered blood-borne agent, is controversial. Our aim was to ascertain the prevalence of hepatitis G virus infection in hepatic and in extrahepatic malignancies.

Methods:

We studied 166 Italian patients (112 male, 54 female, mean age 61.8±9.3, mean±SD, range 34-85). One hundred and eighteen had cirrhosis, which was complicated by hepatocellular carcinoma in 66 cases. Forty-eight patients had extra-hepatic malignancies. Circulating HGV RNA was detected by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) of both the nonstructural-3 and 5′ noncoding regions of the hepatitis G virus genome. Antibodies to the E2 protein of hepatitis G virus were detected by means of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.

Results:

Ongoing HGV infection was detected in 30/66 (46%) patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, 12/52 (23%) patients with cirrhosis, and 14/48(29%) patients with extrahepatic malignancies (p<0.05). Evidence of exposure to hepatitis G virus (detection of either HGV RNA or anti-E2 antibodies) was found in 46% of patients with cirrhosis, 66% of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, and 39% of patients with extrahepatic malignancies. Serum HGV RNA positivity was associated with a hematocrit value≤0.35 and with history of exposure to blood products(p<0.005).

Conclusions:

Ongoing hepatitis G virus infection is detected at a very high rate in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, but is also fairly common in extrahepatic malignancies. Hepatitis G virus infection in these patients is likely to originate from exposure to blood products, and to persist because of deficient immune surveillance.

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