Background/aims: Alcohol and the hepatitis C virus have been postulated to interact to adversely affect the natural history of patients with chronic liver disease. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of alcohol on hepatitic activity and serum HCV RNA levels in patients with chronic hepatitis C.
Methods: Forty-five consecutive patients with chronic hepatitis C were classified according to alcohol intake over the 3-month period preceding study entry: group 1 (n = 23), > 10 g alcohol/day; group 2 (n = 22), < or = 10 g alcohol/day. Hepatitic activity and alcohol intake were assessed at study entry and, following moderation of alcohol intake, after a mean follow-up period of 4.4 +/- 0.2 months.
Results: Hepatitic activity was significantly greater in the patients who consumed > 10 g of alcohol/day. Moderation of alcohol consumption in patients consuming > 10 g/day resulted in a significant decrease in both disease activity (p = 0.0002) and viral RNA titre (p = 0.018); there was no change over the study period in patients with a consistently low alcohol intake.
Conclusion: The results support the hypotheses that, in patients with chronic hepatitis C, alcohol aggravates hepatic injury, increases viral load and adversely affects the natural history of the associated liver disease.