Background/aims: Recent reports have shown a high frequency of anti-hepatitis C virus antibodies in patients with cryoglobulinemia. The factors involved in the production of cryoglobulins in hepatitis C virus-infected patients are unknown. To assess the role of hepatitis C virus genotypes in the pathogenesis of mixed cryoglobulinemia, we analyzed their prevalence in a group of 118 hepatitis C virus-infected patients according to the presence or absence of cryoglobulins.
Methods: The hepatitis C virus genome was typed using the Line Probe Assay (LiPA, Innogenetics), for the most common genotypes (1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3, 4 or 5).
Results: Cryoglobulinemia was diagnosed in 60 (51%) patients, 33 (55%) of whom had type II and 27 (45%) type III cryoglobulins. Forty-four (37%) patients had no cryoglobulinemia and 14 (12%) patients had transient cryoglobulins. Cryoglobulins were significantly less prevalent in patients infected by genotype 1a. We found no statistical link between the hepatitis C virus genotype and the presence of symptomatic cryoglobulinemia, or the hepatitis C virus genotype and the type (II or III) of cryoglobulin. Interestingly, all six patients infected by hepatitis C virus genotype 4 or 5 had cryoglobulins.
Conclusions: In patients with hepatitis C virus infection, cryoglobulinemia is not strongly associated with a particular HCV genotype or subtype. The mechanism by which cryoglobulins are produced remains to be elucidated.