Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an important cause of chronic liver disease.
Treatment with interferon is expensive and only works in approximately half those treated.
Dr Stephen Ryder's team evaluated 214 patients with HCV (mean age 36 years, 126 male) who had mainly mild liver disease.
The patients were not treated, but were biopsied every 2.5 years.
The team found that at the first biopsy, the average fibrosis score (Ishak score) was 3.
|Gender, alcohol consumption and virus type did not influence the rate of progression.|
They determined that by the time of the next biopsy the Ishak score had increased by 1 or more points in a third of the patients, and by 2 or more points 10%.
Factors influencing progression of the disease were older age at infection, and degree of fibrosis at the first biopsy.
The team did not find that gender, alcohol consumption, virus type, or other indicators of poor liver function influenced the rate of progression.
Dr Ryder's team concluded that even mild HCV is a progressive disease, and those patients affected are likely to require a considerable degree of health care as they age.
This is particularly likely in those who are older when first infected, and those who already have a degree fibrosis at diagnosis.