Background/aim: This retrospective study aimed to better define the respective biological and pathological impact of human immunodeficiency virus infection and chronic alcohol consumption on the course of hepatitis C virus infection in intravenous drug users.
Methods: Two hundred and ten consecutive anti-HCV positive intravenous drug users, among whom 60 were also anti-HIV positive, took part in the study at the University Hospital, Paris, France.
Results: The activity of aspartate aminotransferase and gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase was significantly increased in serum from anti-HIV positive patients. The mean hepatitis activity index was significantly higher in anti-HIV positive patients (p<0.05), among whom there was also a higher proportion of patients with cirrhosis as compared to anti-HIV negative patients (30.0 vs 15.3%, p<0.0001). Excessive alcohol drinking (recorded in around 35% of the patients, whatever their HIV status), as compared to non-excessive drinking, was more often associated with cirrhosis in anti-HIV negative (24.5 vs 11.3%, p<0.05) than in anti-HIV positive patients (30.4 vs 29.7%, not significant). In a multivariate analysis, HIV infection (relative risk 2.2, confidence interval 1.1-4.5) and excessive alcohol drinking (relative risk 1.9, confidence interval 1.0-3.9) were the variables independently associated with the risk of cirrhosis.
Conclusion: Human immunodeficiency virus infection worsens the course of chronic hepatitis C in intravenous drug users. Excessive alcohol drinking also appears to be a crucial negative cofactor, and therefore alcohol withdrawal should be proposed as an integral part of the therapy.