• asymptomatic carrier;
  • hepatitis C virus;
  • human leukocyte antigen;
  • liver cirrhosis

Abstract: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes various grades of chronic liver disease, ranging from an asymptomatic state to cirrhosis. To assess genetic factors of disease severity, we selected two HCV patient groups according to the following stringent criteria: (i) asymptomatic carrier state (ASC) defined by HCV infection for more than 20 years, normal alanine aminotransferase levels for the past 5 years as well as normal liver histology and/or shape and (ii) liver cirrhosis (LC) as diagnosed by clinical symptoms, liver biopsy and/or ultrasonography. A total of 103 chronically infected Japanese HCV patients (43 ASC and 60 LC) were analyzed. HLA class I and II alleles were established using low resolution DNA typing. HLA-DRB1 and DQB1 genotypes were inferred upon polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. Two hundred and one anti-HCV-negative ethnically matched controls were included. The frequencies of DRB1*12 (*1201 and *1202), DQB1*0301 and DRB3*03 alleles were higher in patients with ASC than in those with LC (odds ratio (OR) 11.23, OR 4.25, and OR 3.22, respectively). The frequency of DQB1*0503 were lower in ASC patients compared to LC patients (OR 0.05). No significant differences between groups were observed for age, sex, source of infection, HCV genotype or viral loads. Our findings establish that certain HLA class II alleles strongly influence disease progression following HCV infection.