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Cerebral dysfunction in chronic hepatitis C infection


Daniel M Forton, Hepatology Section, Division of Medicine A, 10th Floor QEQM Building, St Mary's Campus, Imperial College, South Wharf Rd, London W2 1NY, UK. E-mail:


summary. A number of studies have reported an association between chronic hepatitis C (HCV) infection and significant impairments in health-related quality of life (QOL), which are independent of the severity of liver disease. There are numerous reports documenting the prevalence of symptoms such as fatigue and depression in chronic HCV infection, which may in part account for the reductions in quality of life. Although there are a large number of potential explanations for these symptoms, including depression and anxiety associated with the diagnosis of HCV infection or substance abuse, there has been recent interest in the possibility of a biological effect of HCV infection on cerebral function. There is emerging evidence of mild, but significant neurocognitive impairment in HCV infection, which cannot be attributed to substance abuse, coexistent depression or hepatic encephalopathy. In vivo magnetic resonance spectroscopy and neurophysiological studies have suggested that a biological mechanism may underlie these cognitive findings. The recent detection of HCV genetic sequences in post mortem brain tissue raises the intriguing possibility that HCV infection of the central nervous system may be related to the reported neuropsychological symptoms and cognitive impairment.