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Keywords:

  • chronic hepatitis C;
  • leptin;
  • liver fibrosis

Summary.  Recent attention has focused on the liver profibrogenic role of leptin in animal models. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the role of leptin and TNF-α in the severity of liver fibrosis in patients with chronic hepatitis C (CHC). We used a radioimmunoassay to determine serum leptin concentrations in 77 consecutive patients with CHC and 22 healthy controls. Leptin was correlated with liver histological (METAVIR) and metabolic indices. Sixty five patients had none to moderate liver fibrosis (F0-F2) and twelve severe fibrosis (F3-F4). Steatosis was observed in all but 27 patients. Leptin was significantly increased in patients compared with controls and was significantly more elevated in females both in patients and controls. The age, age at infection, prothrombin index, body mass index (BMI), triglycerides, glycaemia, ferritin, leptin and TNF-α, were associated with severe fibrosis. Steatosis was significantly more pronounced in patients with severe than those without or moderate fibrosis (P = 0.04). Only leptin was significantly and independently associated with severe fibrosis (OR = 1.2, CI 95%: 1.1–1.4, P = 0.03). Leptin was significantly associated with BMI (r = 0.64, P < 0.001) and glycaemia (r = 0.43, P < 0.001). Significant correlations were found between steatosis and BMI (r = 0.30, P < 0.01) and glycaemia (r = 0.30, P < 0.01). In patients with CHC and higher BMI and glycaemia levels, the severity of liver fibrosis is associated with serum leptin. TNF-α is a putative candidate involved in the mechanism.