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Incidence of hepatitis virus infection and severe liver dysfunction in patients receiving chemotherapy for hematologic malignancies


Toshio Kawatani, Second Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine,Tottori University, 86 Nishimachi, Yonago, 683–0803, Japan
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Abstract: Hepatitis virus infection through virus reactivation has a high risk of mortality in patients with hematological malignancies receiving chemotherapy. We examined the incidence of both hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and severe liver dysfunction (alanine aminotransferase >ten times the normal upper limit and total bilirubin >5 mg/dl) during chemotherapy in 268 patients with hematological malignancies. Eight patients (3.0%) were infected with HBV and 22 patients (8.2%) were infected with HCV. One patient (0.4%) was infected with both HBV and HCV. HBV- or HCV-infected patients showed severe liver dysfunction at a significantly higher incidence than non-infected patients (11/31 (35.5%) vs. 0/237 (0%), p<0.0001). Furthermore, the incidence of severe liver dysfunction in HBV-infected patients was significantly higher than in HCV-infected patients (6/8 (75.0%) vs. 4/22 (18.2%), p<0.01). Three of eight HBV-infected patients were initially negative for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) by latex agglutination and became positive for HBsAg during chemotherapy. Furthermore, all three patients developed severe liver dysfunction and two developed fatal fulminant hepatitis. From an examination of the original stock of serum samples before chemotherapy, two patients were found to be positive for HBV-DNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Although post-transfusion HBV infection was suspected in the one remaining patient, the cause of HBV infection could not be clarified due to the impossibility of examination in blood donors. Since HBV-infected patients develop severe liver dysfunction at a higher incidence than either patients not infected with virus or HCV-infected patients before chemotherapy for hematological malignancies, it is recommended that HBV-DNA should be tested by PCR to detect HBV marker-negative carriers and liver function tests should be carefully monitored.

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