High prevalence of serological markers of autoimmunity in patients with chronic hepatitis C

Hepatology. 1995 Mar;21(3):613-9.


The advent of specific antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis C has increased the importance of establishing the correct etiology of chronic hepatitis in patients, especially because interferon alfa (IFN-alpha) has been reported to exacerbate autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), whereas corticosteroids increase viral replication in chronic hepatitis C. In our medical center, we have treated many patients with apparent chronic hepatitis C and serological or clinical evidence of autoimmunity. Our aim was to estimate the prevalence of this association and to learn whether demographic or clinical features distinguished between patients with or without autoimmune markers. We performed a retrospective review of the records of 244 unselected patients seen at the Clinics and Hospital of the University of Massachusetts between May 1991 and November 1993, who had elevated serum aminotransferases. One hundred seventeen patients had chronic hepatitis C defined by elevations of serum alanine transaminase (ALT) for at least 6 months, positive serum antibodies to hepatitis C virus (HCV; second-generation enzyme immunoassay [EIA2] or recombinant immunoblot assay [RIBA]), and absence of hepatitis B surface antigen in the serum. Records were reviewed for results of autoimmune markers in sera, including anti-nuclear antibodies (ANAs), anti-smooth muscle antibodies (SMAs), rheumatoid factor (RF), antimitochondrial antibodies (AMAs), anti-liver and kidney microsomal (LKM) antibodies, and cryoglobulins. We found a high prevalence of positivity, particularly for anti-SMAs (66%) and RF (76%) in both men and women. Forty of 41 patients tested negative for anti-LKM antibodies.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / immunology
  • Autoantibodies / analysis*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cryoglobulins / analysis
  • Female
  • Hepatitis C / immunology*
  • Hepatitis C / therapy
  • Humans
  • Interferons / therapeutic use
  • Kidney / immunology
  • Male
  • Microsomes / immunology
  • Microsomes, Liver / immunology
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitochondria / immunology
  • Muscle, Smooth / immunology
  • Rheumatoid Factor / analysis


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Autoantibodies
  • Cryoglobulins
  • Interferons
  • Rheumatoid Factor