Background & aims: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has been shown to be associated with a low platelet count. This study aimed to elucidate the association between virologic status and platelet count in individuals with HCV infection.
Methods: A large-scale survey, enrolling 11,239 residents, was conducted in the Kaohsiung area of Taiwan. Serum HCV RNA and non-invasive markers of fibrosis (FibroTest) were tested for antibody to HCV (anti-HCV)-positive subjects. The platelet counts of age- and sex-matched, biopsy-proven, hospital-based patients and community-based patients with minimal fibrosis were compared.
Results: Anti-HCV was positive in 703 (6.2%) subjects and was significantly associated with older age, female sex, abnormal alanine aminotransferase (ALT) value and low platelet count (<150,000/microl). The independent factors significantly associated with low platelet count were abnormal ALT value (odds ratio [OR]: 3.70, 95% confidence intervals [CI]: 2.18-6.28) and positive HCV RNA (OR: 2.00, 95% CI: 1.01-3.97). After adjustment for the fibrosis, HCV RNA remained significantly associated with platelet counts.
Conclusions: Our results evaluating the association between platelet count and HCV viremia and taking the influences of fibrosis into consideration implicate that platelets may be affected directly by HCV.