Synergism of chronic alcoholism and hepatitis B infection in liver disease


Correspondence: Dr C-L. Lai, Department of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong.


One hundred and fifty-seven patients with alcoholic liver disease were studied. Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) was positive in 20.4% of the patients. Those who were positive for the HBsAg presented at an earlier age, had a lower albumin level, a higher globulin level, a more prolonged prothrombin time, were more likely to have features of cirrhosis in the liver biopsy, and were probably more likely to suffer from hepatic encephalopathy in the follow-up compared with those negative for HBsAg. The mortality of subjects was low both on admission and during follow-up. It is concluded that chronic alcoholism and hepatitis B virus infection act synergistically in producing more severe liver damage and causing cirrhosis at a younger age compared with chronic alcoholism alone. One possible reason for the low mortality of the patients might have been their relatively good nutritional status.