Patients infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) often have extrahepatic manifestations, which significantly contribute to HCV-related morbidity, but whose pathogenesis is largely unknown.
A joint team of researchers from Italy and Switzerland has therefore investigated the extent of HCV replication in the oral mucosa of patients with chronic hepatitis C.
Oral mucosa specimens were collected from 17 anti-HCV-positive and 4 anti-HCV-negative patients.
Of these 21 patients, 15 had oral lichen, 12 of who were in the anti-HCV-positive group.
Total mucosa RNA was extracted and analyzed for presence and titer of genomic and negative-strand HCV RNA and findings were then compared with clinical and pathological features.
The researchers identified genomic and negative-strand HCV-RNA in 12 of 17 (71%) and 4 of 17 (24%) of samples, respectively.
| Only lichen tissues appear to contain replicating HCV |
| Journal of Hepatology |
No negative-strand HCV RNA was detected in 5 anti-HCV-positive patients without lichen (including three with normal mucosa).
Presence and titer of the negative-strand HCV RNA were independent of HCV genotype, serum viral load, and histological diagnosis of liver lesions.
The phylogenetic analysis of the envelope 2 region cloned from a normal mucosa and the corresponding serum further suggested that only lichen tissues appear to harbor replicating HCV.
The research group therefore concludes that HCV may occasionally replicate in oral lichen tissue, possibly contributing to the pathogenesis of mucosa damage.