Objectives: The natural history of chronic hepatitis C and treatment response are different between blacks and Caucasians, but little comparable data is available about Latinos.
Methods: A cross-sectional secondary analysis to investigate differences between 421 anti-HCV-positive, treatment-naïve, HCV-viremic Latinos and 2,510 Caucasians in 24 VA medical centers enrolled in a prospective study.
Results: Latinos were infected at a younger age and were less likely to have blood contact during combat, surgery, and needle stick injury, but were more frequently HIV coinfected (20.4%vs 3.9%, p < 0.0001) and prior HAV infection (39.9%vs 26.4%, p= 0.0001). Latinos were more likely to be treatment candidates, but less likely to actually initiate treatment. Liver histology (123 Latinos, 743 Caucasians) showed no difference in fibrosis or fibrosis rate, but steatosis (54.7%vs 43.2%, p= 0.038) was more common in Latinos. Eighty-eight Latinos and 481 Caucasians were subsequently treated with interferon-ribavirin: body mass index (BMI), duration of infection, baseline tests, liver histology and genotype distribution were similar. Compared with Caucasians, Latinos discontinued treatment prematurely more often (39.8%vs 28.9%, p= 0.043) and tended to have lower sustained virological response (SVR) rates (14.8%vs 22.5%, p= 0.10). Multivariate analysis found Latino race and history of recent alcohol use to be associated with early treatment discontinuation, whereas genotype and viral load but not ethnicity to be associated with SVR.
Conclusions: Latinos were infected younger, more frequently HIV coinfected, more likely to meet criteria for antiviral therapy yet less likely to initiate treatment and had a trend toward lower SVR rates than Caucasians, but not in severity of liver disease. Latino ethnicity was associated with early discontinuation but not as an independent predictor of SVR.