Viral load and clinicopathological features of chronic hepatitis C (1b) in a homogeneous patient population



Monitoring the progression of hepatitis C virus (HCV) includes clinical, biochemical, and histological parameters. Quantitation of viral load by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) may offer a more reliable marker of disease status. Conflicting reports on viral titers may reflect heterogeneity of patient population, mode of infection, and viral type/subtype. The aim of this study was to correlate quantitative serum viral load with alanine transaminase (ALT) and histological status in a homogenous population. The study population consisted of 77 Rhesus-negative women with chronic hepatitis C type 1b. Homogenous features of this study population included: same defined source of infection (contaminated anti-D immunoglobulin); same duration of disease (17 years at the time of study); same viral type/subtype; same ethnic origin; all healthy child-bearing females at the time of infection; and an absence of competing risk factors for infectious and other liver diseases. None of the patients had received antiviral treatment at the time of study. Liver biopsy was performed on all patients. All biopsies were scored by a single histopathologist who was blinded to the clinical and viral status of each patient. A weak, but statistically significant, correlation (rs = .26; P < .05) between serum viral load and the degree of inflammation (mean value: 3.87 ± 2.17 [SD]) was found. There was no significant correlation between serum viral load and the degree of fibrosis (mean value: 0.84 ± 0.8 [SD]; P = .06). There was no significant correlation between serum viral load and ALT, although there was a correlation between ALT and the degree of inflammation (rs = .241; P = .035)