Autoantibody prevalence in children with liver disease due to chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection

Clin Exp Immunol. 1998 Jun;112(3):471-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2249.1998.00574.x.


HCV infection and interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) therapy have been associated with autoimmunity. To assess whether chronic liver disease (CLD) due to HCV infection or its treatment with IFN-alpha cause autoimmune manifestations, the prevalence of tissue autoantibodies in 51 children with chronic HCV infection and 84 with other CLD was analysed by standard techniques. Sixty-five percent of patients with chronic HCV infection, 66% with chronic hepatitis B infection and 60% with Wilson's disease were positive for at least one autoantibody. In the 51 subjects with chronic HCV infection (29 treated with IFN-alpha, 22 untreated), tested on 165 occasions over a median of 9 months (range 5-42 months), autoantibodies to nuclei (ANA), smooth muscle (SMA), gastric parietal cell (GPC) and/or liver kidney microsomal type 1 (LKM-1) were similarly prevalent in treated and untreated patients (90% versus 68%, P = 0.12). Positivity for SMA was present in 67%, GPC in 32%, ANA in 10%, LKM-1 in 8% of cases. Treatment with IFN-alpha had to be suspended due to transaminase elevation in one SMA-positive, one ANA-positive but in three of four LKM-1-positive patients. Our results show that: (i) autoantibodies are common in viral-induced hepatitis and Wilson's disease; (ii) positivity for SMA, GPC, ANA is part of the natural course of chronic HCV infection, their prevalence being unaffected by IFN-alpha; and (iii) IFN-alpha should be used cautiously in the treatment of LKM-1/HCV-positive patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / immunology
  • Autoantibodies / immunology*
  • Autoimmunity*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hepacivirus / immunology*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Smooth / immunology
  • Parietal Cells, Gastric / immunology
  • Stomach / immunology


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Autoantibodies
  • anti-liver kidney microsome antibody