The role of autoimmunity in hepatitis C infection

J Hepatol. 1995;22(1 Suppl):93-6.


Viral infections are considered a possible trigger of autoimmune diseases. In autoimmune liver diseases the hepatotropic viruses, especially hepatitis C virus (HCV), have received particular attention as possible etiological agents. The present study was undertaken to investigate the relation between hepatitis virus infections and autoimmune liver diseases. We found a very low incidence of HCV infection in patients with autoimmune liver diseases. Only 5% (n = 7) of patients with AIH types I and III had antibodies against HCV antigens, but only two of these seven were HCV-RNA positive. Similar results were obtained in patients with PBC and PSC. Furthermore, the coexistence of LKM autoantibodies with chronic HC is a rare event and less common than low-titer ANA and SMA in viral liver diseases. In conclusion, a link between hepatitis viruses B or C and AI-liver diseases is very unlikely. Autoantibodies in viral liver diseases appear to be an expression of a generalized immune activation by cytokines, as observed during interferon treatment in viral liver diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Autoantibodies / biosynthesis
  • Autoimmune Diseases / etiology*
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • HLA Antigens / blood
  • Hepatitis B / complications*
  • Hepatitis B / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis C / complications*
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Liver Diseases / etiology*


  • Autoantibodies
  • HLA Antigens