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Keywords:

  • alcohol consumption;
  • fibrosis;
  • hepatitis

Although excessive alcohol consumption in combination with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is known to increase the risk of liver cirrhosis, the effect of moderate alcohol intake remains to be elucidated. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of moderate alcohol consumption on fibrosis progression in HCV infection. A group of 78 patients with HCV infection and moderate alcohol consumption were analysed retrospectively. All patients had undergone two liver biopsies, with a median time between biopsies of 6.3 years, and had not received any antiviral therapy. Their lifetime drinking history was recorded. All patients except one had daily alcohol consumption below 40 g of ethanol (median 4.8 g/day, interquartile range 1.1–11.6 g/day) during the period between the biopsies. The patients whose liver fibrosis had deteriorated had a higher total alcohol consumption and higher drinking frequency between the biopsies. The degree of fibrosis progression was greater in patients with a total alcohol intake and drinking frequency above the median level for the group. A multiple logistic regression analysis showed that drinking frequency and time between biopsies were independently associated with fibrosis progression. Hence, even moderate alcohol intake seems to increase fibrosis progression in HCV-infected patients. From that point of view, total abstention ought to be recommended. If this is not achieved, occasional use of alcohol is probably less harmful than daily drinking for patients with low or moderate alcohol consumption.