Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infections in alcoholics

Front Biosci. 2002 Jul 1;7:e286-300. doi: 10.2741/A924. Epub 2002 Jul 1.


Approximately 400,000 individuals in the United States are co-infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and it is likely that almost one in two of these subjects consumes alcohol. The majority of these patients suffer an accelerated course of liver disease as manifested by the onset of cirrhosis within 5 to 10 years of developing HCV infection, as well as an increased risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). It is thought that chronic alcohol abuse mediates liver damage as a result of increased production of free radicals and proinflammatory cytokines. In the setting of chronic HCV infection, alcohol ingestion has an additional effect of diminishing immune clearance and increasing viral burden to hasten the onset of cirrhosis and HCC. Likewise, chronic HCV and HIV-1 co-infection results in a net increase in HCV burden; higher prevalence rates of HCV transmission to sexual partners and offspring, as well as an accelerated progression to end stage liver disease as compared to individuals with HCV infection alone. Thus, the synergistic effects of alcohol abuse and HIV-1 greatly impact on the morbidity and mortality for patients with HCV coinfection. Ultimately, this cumulative disease process will require far more aggressive management with abstinence and counseling for alcohol abuse; highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) for HIV infection and combination anti-viral therapy for HCV infection to stem the rapid progression to end stage liver disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / virology*
  • Animals
  • HIV Infections / virology*
  • Hepatitis C / virology*
  • Humans
  • Opportunistic Infections / virology