German researchers compared the seroprevalence of hepatitis B and C infection in alcoholic patients and the general population.
The findings of the study were reported at Digestive Diseases Week 2002.
The sera of 2 groups of patients were investigated.
The first group consisted of 297 consecutive alcoholics admitted for withdrawal to the department of psychiatry at the authors' institution.
Patients with current or previous intravenous drug abuse were excluded.
|10-fold increased risk of HCV in alcoholic patients.
The second group comprised of 50 randomly selected patients with alcoholic cirrhosis admitted to the department of internal medicine at the same institution.
Prevalence of Hepatitis B and C serum markers in both groups were compared with the prevalence in 1222 randomly selected individuals, aged 18-70, from the same region. These were considered to be representative for the general adult population.
Sera were tested for anti-HCV by enzyme immunoassay and immunodot assay, as well as for anti-HBc and, in case of a positive result, for anti-HBs and HBsAg.
Hepatitis C antibodies were found in 8% of withdrawal patients and 8% of cirrhotic patients, compared to only 1% in the general population.
The team found that anti-HBc prevalence was 8% in withdrawal patients, 8% in cirrhotics, and 10% in the general population.
Furthermore, HBs carrier rate was 0.3%, 0%, and 0.6%, respectively.
Dr Claus Hellerbrand, from Regensburg, Germany, concluded on behalf of his group, "There was an almost 10-fold increased prevalence of hepatitis C in actively drinking alcoholic patients, as well as in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis.
"This suggests that a history of alcohol abuse is a predisposing factor for hepatitis C (but not for hepatitis B) infection."