• extrahepatic manifestations of HCV;
  • HCV chronic infection;
  • mixed cryoglobulinaemia

The aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of cryoglobulins in patients with chronic hepatitis B and C virus infection and to investigate the association of type II and type III mixed cryoglobulinaemia with systemic manifestations and liver disease stage and outcome in hepatitis C virus (HCV)-positive patients. We analysed the prevalence of cryoglobulinaemia in a cohort of patients with chronic liver disease and compared the systemic manifestations and liver involvement in HCV-positive patients with type II or type III mixed cryoglobulinaemia. The prevalence of serum cryoglobulins was significantly higher in HCV-positive patients than in hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-positive patients (55.4 vs 20.6%). In HCV-positive patients, stage of liver disease correlated with the prevalence of cryoglobulinaemia. Patients with type II cryoglobulins showed a significantly higher risk of cirrhosis and of extrahepatic manifestations while patients with type III cryoglobulins had a significantly higher prevalence of hepatocellular carcinoma. During follow-up the former had an odds ratio of 11.9 of death from extrahepatic complications while the latter had an odds ratio of 3.4 of dying from hepatic disease. Our study confirms the high frequency of mixed cryoglobulinaemia in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus infection. The presence and type of cryoglobulins seem to be associated with different clinical manifestations and outcome.