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Keywords:

  • chronic infection;
  • cirrhosis;
  • γ-glutamyl transferase;
  • hepatitis C;
  • liver disease

Abstract

Background:  Increased serum γ-glutamyl transferase (GGT) levels are frequently observed in chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. However, the significance of this finding remains unclear. The purpose of the present paper was to assess the relationship between GGT levels and clinical, biochemical and histological features in chronic HCV-infected carriers.

Methods:  Patients with a liver biopsy presenting anti-HCV and HCV-RNA were evaluated. Age, gender, risk factors of transmission, serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT), GGT and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) levels and histological features were assessed in all. Data were analyzed statistically by the χ2 test and multivariate logistic regression analysis.

Results:  Among 201 patients studied, elevated GGT levels and bile duct damage were observed in 48% and 35% of them, respectively. No association was seen between GGT level and bile duct damage or between GGT level and hepatic steatosis. Inititally, age > 40 years (P = 0.007), elevated ALT (P = 0.01), grading of inflammatory activity (P = 0.004) and staging of fibrosis (P < 0.001) were found to be associated with elevated GGT levels. After multivariate regression analysis, histology grading 3 and 4 inflammation activity (P = 0.01) and staging 3 and 4 fibrosis (P = 0.01) remained independently associated with elevated GGT level.

Conclusions:  A significant number of patients with chronic HCV infection had elevated serum GGT levels. Furthermore, this enzyme seemed to be useful as an indirect marker of more advanced liver disease in chronic hepatitis C.

© 2004 Blackwell Publishing Asia Pty Ltd