The mechanisms by which alcohol consumption worsens the evolution of chronic hepatitis C (CHC) are poorly understood. We have investigated the possible interaction between hepatitis C virus (HCV) and ethanol in promoting oxidative stress. Circulating IgG against human serum albumin (HSA) adducted with malondialdehyde (MDA-HSA), 4-hydroxynonenal (HNE-HSA), or arachidonic acid hydroperoxide (AAHP-HSA) and against oxidized cardiolipin (Ox-CL) were evaluated as markers of oxidative stress in 145 CHC patients with different alcohol consumption, 20 HCV-free heavy drinkers (HD) without liver disease, and 50 healthy controls. Anti-MDA IgG was increased in CHC patients irrespective of alcohol intake as well as in the HD group. CHC patients with moderate alcohol intake (<50 g ethanol/d), but not HD, also had significantly higher values of anti-AAHP-HSA, anti-HNE-HSA, and anti-Ox-CL IgG (P < .05) than controls. A further elevation (P < .001) of these antibodies was evident in CHC patients with heavy alcohol intake (>50 g ethanol/d). Anti-AAHP and anti-Ox-CL IgG above the 95th percentile in the controls were observed in 24% to 26% of moderate and 58% to 63% of heavy drinkers but only in 6% to 9% of the abstainers. The risk of developing oxidative stress during CHC was increased 3-fold by moderate and 13- to 24-fold by heavy alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking CHC patients had significantly more piecemeal necrosis and fibrosis than abstainers. Diffuse piecemeal necrosis was 4-fold more frequent among alcohol-consuming patients with lipid peroxidation-related antibodies than among those without these antibodies. In conclusion, even moderate alcohol consumption promotes oxidative stress in CHC patients, suggesting a role for oxidative injury in the worsening of CHC evolution by alcohol.
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