Antinuclear antibody positivity in patients with chronic hepatitis C: clinically relevant or an epiphenomenon?

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009 Apr;21(4):440-6.


Background: Serum autoantibodies such as antinuclear antibody (ANA) are frequently detected in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, but its relevance is a matter of discussion.

Aim: To assess the association of ANA positivity with clinical and histological features, and with the outcome of antiviral therapy in patients with HCV infection.

Methods: Baseline samples from patients with hepatitis C treated with interferon and ribavirin were tested for ANA positivity by indirect immunofluorescence.

Results: The mean age was 48.3+/-11.1 years and 56% were men. Among 234 included patients, 22 patients (9.4%) were positive for ANA. These patients showed significantly higher median alanine aminotransferase level (3.52 vs. 2.39 x upper limit of normal, P=0.009) when compared with ANA-negative patients. Fibrosis stage and necroinflammatory grading were not influenced by ANA positivity. Sustained virological response (SVR) rates were similar between ANA-positive and ANA-negative patients (27 vs. 29%, P=0.882). Alanine aminotransferase flares (> or =1.5-fold the baseline) during treatment were observed in 28 patients (12%), irrespective of the presence of ANA and without any clinical significance.

Conclusion: Among HCV patients, ANA positivity seems to represent an immunological epiphenomenon. It neither influences clinical, biochemical, and histological features of chronic hepatitis C nor predicts response to antiviral treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / blood*
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect / methods
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / drug therapy
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ribavirin / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Failure
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Ribavirin
  • Alanine Transaminase