In this study we analyzed the influence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection on the course of chronic hepatitis C through multivariate analysis including age, alcohol consumption, immune status, and hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related virologic factors. Eighty HIV-positive and 80 HIV-negative injection drug users included between 1980 and 1995 were matched according to age, gender, and duration of HCV infection and followed-up during 52 months. The progression to cirrhosis was the primary outcome measure. The impact of HIV on HCV-RNA load, histologic activity index, response to interferon therapy, and liver-related death was also considered. In HIV-positive patients, chronic hepatitis C was characterized by higher serum HCV-RNA levels (P = .012), higher total Knodell score (P = .011), and poorer sustained response to interferon therapy (P = .009). High serum HCV-RNA level was associated with low CD4-lymphocyte count (P = .001). Necroinflamatory score was higher in HIV-positive patients (P = .023) independently of the CD4-lymphocyte count, whereas increased fibrosis was related to decreased CD4-lymphocyte count (P = .011). The progression to cirrhosis was accelerated in HIV-positive patients with low CD4 cell count (RR = 4.06, P = .024) and in interferon-untreated patients (RR = 4.76, P = .001), independently of age at HCV infection (P = .001). Cirrhosis caused death in 5 HIV-positive patients. The risk of death related to cirrhosis was increased in heavy drinkers (RR = 10.8, P = .001) and in HIV-positive patients with CD4 cell count less than 200/mm3 (RR = 11.9, P = .007). In this retrospective cohort study, HIV coinfection worsened the outcome of chronic hepatitis C, increasing both serum HCV-RNA level and liver damage and decreasing sustained response to interferon therapy. Age and alcohol were cofactors associated with cirrhosis and mortality. Interferon therapy had a protective effect against HCV-related cirrhosis no matter what the patient's HIV status was.
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