Introduction: Hepatitis C chronic infection has long been correlated with numerous systemic diseases, such as diabetes mellitus and hepatic steatosis. Recent studies have also revealed an association with atherosclerosis.Areas covered: An analysis is presented on the mechanisms through which the hepatitis C viral infection can lead to a systemic increase in pro-inflammatory markers, especially tumor necrosis factor-a and interleukin-6. The immunological imbalance created may, through different mechanisms, act on the metabolic pathways that contribute to the development of insulin resistance, the accumulation of lipids in the liver, and even the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. Moreover, an additional contributing factor to the above-mentioned metabolic derangements is the unopposed oxidative stress observed in chronic hepatitis C viral infection. The virus itself contributes to the formation of oxidative stress, through alterations in the trace metal homeostasis and its effect on pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-a.Expert opinion: The scope of this review is to emphasize the importance of the metabolic manifestations of hepatitis C viral infection and to elucidate the pathophysiological mechanisms behind their emergence.
Keywords: Cardiovascular risk; hepatitis C; insulin resistance; metabolic disease; oxidative stress; systemic inflammation.