Background/aims: Increased serum ferritin is thought to be responsible for activation of glutathione turnover in patients with chronic hepatitis C. The aim of the study was to evaluate a possible correlation between levels of serum ferritin and concentrations of hepatic, plasmatic and lymphocytic glutathione in a selected cohort of chronic hepatitis C patients in relation to the hepatitis C virus genotype.
Methods: The study considered 130 chronic hepatitis C patients and 23 control subjects. Hepatic glutathione was determined from biopsy liver specimens by high performance liquid chromatography. Total Iron Score was assessed by scoring iron separately within hepatocytes, sinusoidal cells and portal tracts. Blood samples were tested for determination of serum ferritin, and plasmatic and lymphocytic glutathione levels. Hepatic and erythocyte malonyldialdehyde were also determined along with peripheral blood mononuclear cell cytotoxic assay.
Results: Patients with genotype 1b showed higher levels of serum ferritin compared to patients with genotype 2a/2c and 3a and to controls, along with a significant reduction of the concentrations of hepatic, plasmatic and lymphocytic glutathione and peripheral blood mononuclear cell cytotoxic activity. The levels of serum ferritin correlated significantly to Total Iron Score, to hepatic, plasmatic and lymphocytic glutathione, to hepatic and erythrocyte malonyldialdehyde and to peripheral blood mononuclear cell cytotoxic activity.
Conclusions: The levels of serum ferritin correlate significantly to lipoperoxidation markers in chronic hepatitis C patients. The increased production of free radicals with a reduced peripheral blood mononuclear cell cytotoxic activity may represent, especially in patients with genotype 1b, a factor underlying the resistance to interferon therapy and may influence the evolution of the liver disease by enhancement of the cytopathic effect of hepatitis C virus.