Objectives: The prevalence and significance of antiorganelle antibodies in the serum of patients with chronic hepatitis C is a subject of controversy. We studied prospectively these characteristics in patients with chronic hepatitis C.
Methods and results: Among 156 patients (age: 55 +/- 14 years; 83 females), 30 (19%) had significant titers of antiorganelle antibodies: anti-nuclear antibodies in 18, anti-smooth muscle antibodies in 8 (no anti-actin or anti-vimentine subtypes), anti-LKM1 in 2, type 2 anti-mitochondrial antibodies in 2 patients. Anti-organelle antibodies were not detected in 126 patients. Patients with anti-organelle antibodies were significantly older but no difference was found between the two groups for sex ratio, serum amino-transferases or gammaglobulins, histopathological liver activity or prevalence of lymphocytic sialadenitis. The presence of anti-organelle antibodies was not related to HLA phenotype, especially B8 DR3, or DR4. Response to alpha interferon, estimated by serum aminotransferase levels after six months of treatment, was the same in both groups.
Conclusions: These results suggest that serum anti-organelle antibodies are prevalent in during chronic hepatitis C but do not indicate a distinct autoimmune mechanism. Furthermore, the typing of anti-smooth muscle antibodies might help distinguish chronic hepatitis C from type 1 autoimmune chronic hepatitis.