Mild to moderate hepatic iron loading is common in patients with chronic hepatitis C.
Researchers from Seattle, Washington, sought to determine whether mutations in the hemochromatosis gene, HFE, are associated with iron overload, and disease progression in hepatitis C.
The researcher team studied 316 patients with chronic hepatitis C. These included 198 consecutive patients undergoing liver biopsy for compensated liver disease, and 118 who underwent liver transplantation for end-stage liver disease.
|HFE mutations were not independently associated with iron loading in patients with end-stage liver disease.|
The team assessed serum iron studies, quantitative hepatic iron concentration, histologic activity index, and HFE genotype.
In the patients with compensated liver disease, HFE mutations were found to be independently associated with elevations in serum iron level, serum transferrin-iron saturation, serum ferritin level, and hepatic iron index.
Furthermore, after adjustment for duration of infection with hepatitis C virus, HFE mutations were also independently associated with the presence of bridging fibrosis or cirrhosis.
However, HFE mutations were not independently associated with iron loading in patients with end-stage liver disease.
The researchers found that there was no significant difference in the prevalence of HFE mutations between patients with compensated and end-stage liver disease (42% versus 33%).
Dr Bruce Tung's team concluded, "The presence of HFE mutations is independently associated with iron loading and advanced fibrosis in patients with compensated liver disease from chronic hepatitis C, especially after controlling for duration of disease".
"These results suggest that HFE mutations accelerate hepatic fibrosis in hepatitis C but may not be responsible for progression to end-stage liver disease."