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Abstract

Previous studies from Spain, Italy, and France have demonstrated a high prevalence (71% to 91%) of antibodies against hepatitis C virus in patients with porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT). To determine the role of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in PCT in Germany, we have assessed the prevalence of antibodies against HCV and hepatitis B virus (HBV) in 106 patients (mean age, 60 ± 14 years) with the disease. Eight of 106 patients (8%) were positive for HCV antibodies and HCV RNA using second-generation enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), recombinant immunoblot assay, and polymerase chain reaction. Antibodies against HBV core antigen were found in 14 patients (13%). Of the patients with antibodies against HCV alanine transaminase (ALT) (aspartate transaminase [AST]) levels above normal occurred in 71% (86%). Because elevated ALT (AST) levels were also found in 51% (64%) of 88 patients without markers of HCV or HBV, we suggest that liver damage in PCT may exist in absence of these viruses. This is supported by the finding that in patients without HCV or HBV markers, higher serum ALT and AST activities were found in patients with overt disease or relapse (ALT, 59 ± 44 U/L; AST, 37 ± 21 U/L), whereas patients in remission displayed significantly lower serum enzyme activities (ALT, 16 ± 8 U/L; AST, 16 ± 7 U/L), (P < 0.001). These results indicate that HCV infection does not play a major role in the pathogenesis of PCT in Germany.