For people who already have chronic hepatitis B, acute infection with the hepatitis C virus may have serious consequences, Taiwanese researchers report.
For people who already have chronic hepatitis B, acute infection with the hepatitis C virus may have serious consequences, Taiwanese researchers report. It is already known that hepatitis delta virus infection superimposed on existing hepatitis B — a situation termed “superinfection” medically — greatly worsens the outlook for such patients. However, hepatitis C superinfection is actually more serious, it seems. As lead investigator Dr. Yun-Fan Liaw told Reuters Health, “In view of the grave prognosis, especially of hepatitis C virus superinfection, it is very important to prevent the transmission of these viruses to patients with underlying liver disease.” Liaw, and colleagues at Chang Gung University in Taipei, came to this conclusion following a study of various groups of hepatitis B patients. These included 93 patients with hepatitis C virus superinfection and 190 with hepatitis delta virus superinfection. Among those with hepatitis C superinfection, impaired liver function developed in 34 percent, liver failure was seen in 11 percent and 10 percent died, the team reports in the medical journal Gastroenterology. The corresponding proportions among the group with hepatitis delta superinfection were similar at 31 percent, 9 percent and 7 percent. However, follow-up showed that in the hepatitis C group, the 48 percent cumulative rate of severe liver damage at 10 years was significantly higher than that in the HDV superinfection group or in those with chronic hepatitis B alone. This was also true for progression to liver cancer in the hepatitis C group — the rate at 10 years was 14 percent and reached 32 percent after 20 years. Thus, the researchers conclude that the long-term prognosis of hepatitis C superinfection in such patients is “much worse than that following acute hepatitis delta virus superinfection or active chronic hepatitis B.” (Source: Gastroenterology, Reuters Health, April 2004)