Background/aims: The majority of adult patients positive for anti-liver-kidney microsomal antibody are also positive for anti-hepatitis C virus and serum HCV RNA. In these patients the role played by hepatitis C virus infection in the progression of liver damage and its relationship with anti-liver-kidney microsomal antibody are, however, still a matter of debate.
Methods: To clarify this point we have compared hepatitis C viremia in sera from 31 hepatitis C virus-related chronic hepatitis patients positive for anti-liver-kidney microsomal antibody with that of 31 patients with hepatitis C virus-related chronic hepatitis without autoantibodies using a newly developed competitive reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction technique. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction was performed using a synthetic competitor of a length similar to that of wild template (71 bp vs 86 bp).
Results: The results obtained have been related to hepatitis C virus genotypes. Anti-liver-kidney microsomal antibody/anti-HCV positive patients show a median value of hepatitis C virus genome molecules (626829/ml, range 9780-25651424), significantly lower than anti-liver-kidney microsomal antibody negative/anti-HCV positive patients (10158314/ml, range 101822-67429974) (p < 0.001). No hepatitis C virus genotype was significantly associated with anti-liver-kidney microsomal antibody, although a predominance of genotype 1 (subtypes a and b) has been observed in these patients.
Conclusions: Since a low hepatitis C viremia has been observed in anti-liver-kidney microsomal antibody positive patients with disease severity comparable to that of patients without autoantibodies, it is conceivable that in them autoimmune mechanisms may cooperate with viral infection in sustaining disease activity.