Background: Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a common infectious agent in chronic hemodialysis (HD) patients. In this prospective case-control study, we aimed to investigate the influence of chronic HCV infection on erythropoietin (EPO) and iron requirement in HD patients.
Patients and methods: 49 HD patients (24 male, 25 female, mean age 47 +/- 15 years) were included. The mean time spent on dialysis was 39 +/- 38 months, and follow-up time was 1 year for this study. Biochemical analyses and complete blood counts together with iron status of the patients (transferrin saturation and serum ferritin levels) were measured monthly. Highly sensitive C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) levels were measured within 3-month intervals. Endogenous EPO levels were measured by enzyme-linked immunoassay 2 weeks after cessation of EPO treatment.
Results: Eleven of the HD patients (22%) were anti-HCV(+). There was no difference in age, sex, time on dialysis, distribution of primary renal diseases, predialytic BUN, Kt/V, albumin and i-PTH levels between HCV(+) and (-) patients. Anti-HCV-positive patients required significantly lower weekly doses of EPO (87 +/- 25 IU/kg vs 129 +/- 11 IU/kg, p = 0.042) and iron (16.8 +/- 12.2 mg vs 32.6 +/- 16.1 mg, p = 0.02) replacement than anti-HCV(-) group; hs-CRP levels were similar between study groups. Serum endogenous EPO levels were significantly higher in HCV(+) patients than HCV(-) HD patients (9.43 +/- 6.47 mU/ml vs 3.59 +/- 2.08 mU/ml, p = 0.008).
Conclusion: Anti-HCV(+) HD patients had higher serum EPO levels and required less EPO and iron replacement as compared to anti-HCV(-) patients. Because of the changes in iron metabolism, iron treatment should be carefully administered in HD patients with HCV.