Background/aims: The host's immune response may influence the course of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. The aim of this study was to examine the distribution of HLA Class II DRB1* alleles in a homogeneous cohort of individuals who were infected with HCV-contaminated anti-D immunoglobulin, and to compare frequencies of alleles in individuals with spontaneous viral clearance to those with chronic HCV infection.
Methods: HLA DRB1* typing was performed on whole blood or serum from 157 females. Of these, 73 had spontaneously recovered from infection (persistently HCV RNA negative), while 84 had chronic HCV infection (persistently HCV RNA positive). A group of 5000 healthy bone marrow donors served as a control population.
Results: No significant differences were observed between individuals with spontaneous viral clearance or chronic HCV infection for age, sex, alcohol consumption, source or duration of infection. The DRB1*01 allele was found significantly more frequently in individuals with viral clearance compared to those with chronic infection (27.4% vs. 7.1% p = 0.001, odds ratio OR = 4.9, pc = 0.01). No significant association was shown between severity of liver disease and DRB1* alleles.
Conclusions: DRB1*01 is associated with spontaneous viral clearance in an Irish cohort infected with HCV via contaminated anti-D immunoglobulin. HLA-DRB1* genes do not appear to influence severity of liver disease. These results suggest that host HLA-DRB1* alleles are important contributors to disease outcome.