Background/aims: Chronic viral hepatitis may have immunologic manifestations, and such features may reflect genetic predispositions. The aim of this study was to assess associations between immune manifestations and HLA-DR antigens.
Methods: Ninety-five patients were evaluated prospectively for immunologic features. A microlymphocytotoxicity technique was used to determine DR3, DR4, and A1-B8-DR3 phenotypes. DR antigens were also determined by restriction fragment length polymorphism in 76 patients with chronic viral hepatitis and 80 normal subjects.
Results: Autoantibodies were found in 59 patients (62%), and concurrent immunologic diseases were found in 22 patients (23%). Patients with antinuclear antibodies had the A1-B8-DR3 phenotype more commonly than seronegative counterparts (26% vs. 6%; P = 0.02) and had DR3 positivity more frequently than normal subjects (41% vs. 18%; P = 0.03). In contrast, patients with concurrent immunologic diseases had DR4 positivity more commonly than patients without these findings (68% vs. 27%; P = 0.001) and normal subjects (68% vs. 30%; P = 0.003).
Conclusions: Patients with chronic viral hepatitis commonly have autoantibodies and/or concurrent immunologic diseases. The expression of antinuclear antibodies is associated with the A1-B8-DR3 phenotype, and the presence of concurrent immunologic diseases is associated with the DR4 phenotype. In these instances, autoimmune expression may reflect a genetic predisposition that is facilitated by viral infection or is coincidental with it.