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Abstract

Hepatitis B virus (HBV)- and hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related liver damage is linked to an increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, but the mechanisms underlying hepatitis C viral activity are not known. We therefore compared hepatocellular proliferative activity in chronic C virus-related hepatitis and in liver damage of other etiology. Hepatocyte proliferation rate was investigated in 56 patients with chronic hepatitis using the Ki67 MIB1 monoclonal antibody in archival material. According to etiology, the patients were subgrouped as follows: HCV (34), HBV (11), Alcohol (4), HCV + Alcohol (4), and Hemochromatosis (3). Proliferation rate was correlated with age, sex, etiology, disease activity, liver iron storage, free-radical production, and glutathione levels by regression and discriminant analysis. HCV-positive patients had significantly more MIB1-positive hepatocytes in the periportal area (P < .011) and in the low-proliferating perivenular area (zones 2 and 3) (P < .05). The number of MIB1-positive cells correlated directly with alanine transaminase (ALT) levels, Knodell index (KI), and, inversely, with iron saturation. By stepwise discriminant analysis, ALT levels and etiology were identified as single independent variables. These data suggest that HCV infection induces increased and abnormal hepatocyte proliferation, which might be related to the increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with HCV-related liver damage.