Background and purpose: Chronic liver disease (CLD) is a major cause of death in Taiwanese aborigines. The roles of substance-use habits and hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in the development of CLD are not well understood in this indigenous population.
Methods: A hospital-based, case-control study of 79 consecutive CLD patients and 107 non-CLD controls was performed. Serostatus of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and antibodies against hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV) were determined in all subjects. Each subject completed an epidemiologic questionnaire about the risk factors of CLD.
Results: Atayal ethnicity, alcohol drinking, cigarette smoking, betel quid chewing, seropositivity of HBsAg and anti-HCV antibodies were associated with a significantly elevated CLD risk. In the combinatory analyses of HBsAg serostatus and substance-use habits, HBsAg-positive substance users had the highest CLD risk, followed by HBsAg-positive non-users, HBsAg-negative users, and HBsAg-negative non-users. Similarly, anti-HCV-positive alcohol drinkers and betel quid chewers had greater CLD risks than other groups. The multivariate-adjusted odds ratios (ORs) for males, Atayal ethnicity and seropositivity of HBsAg and anti-HCV were significantly elevated. There was a biologic gradient in the risk of developing CLD associated with the number of substance-use habits. The multivariate-adjusted ORs were 4.7 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3-16.8) and 7.9 (95% CI, 2.1-30.4) for subjects with 1-2 and 3 habits, respectively, compared to subjects with no habit.
Conclusion: Our data suggest that chronic HBV and HCV infections, alcohol drinking, cigarette smoking, and betel quid chewing play important roles in the development of CLD in Taiwanese aborigines.