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Abstract

The prevalence of hepatitis B and C virus infections was studied in 70 patients diagnosed as having hepatocellular carcinoma. In addition to viral serological markers, serum hepatitis B virus DNA and hepatitis C virus RNA were determined with a nested polymerase chain reaction assay. Twelve patients (17%) were HBsAg positive, 26 (37%) had antibodies to HBs, HBc or both and 32 (46%) were negative for all hepatitis B virus serological markers. Prevalence of the antibody to hepatitis C virus was 63% (44 patients). Hepatitis B virus DNA was detected in 24 of the 66 tested patients (36%). Twelve of these hepatitis B virus DNA-positive patients were HBsAg negative (seven were positive for antibody to HBs, antibody to HBc or both and five were negative for all hepatitis B virus serological markers). Hepatitis C virus RNA was found in 42 of 68 patients (62%): A high correlation (95%) existed between hepatitis C virus RNA and hepatitis C virus antibodies. Nevertheless, two patients without antibody to hepatitis C virus had serum hepatitis C virus RNA sequences. Coinfection by the two viruses was detected in nine subjects (14%), but no clinical differences were found between these and the rest of the patients. We conclude that nearly 90% (62 of the 70 patients studied) of cases of hepatocellular carcinoma in our geographical area are related to hepatitis virus infections (detected by serological or molecular studies). Hepatitis C is more prevalent than hepatitis B virus in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, and the infection is still active when the tumor is diagnosed. This fact is probably important in the contribution of hepatitis C virus to the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. (HEPATOLOGY 1992;16:637–641.)