Chronic infection with the Hepatitis C virus affects over 170 million individuals worldwide and 20% of patients develop cirrhosis after 20 years.
Increased iron stores and hepatic iron content have been suggested to be important in fibrosis progression.
The increased prevalence of diabetes mellitus has been associated with increased iron deposits in patients with chronic Hepatitis C.
Dr D'Souza and colleagues assessed the potential relationship between serum ferritin and hepatic iron staining and liver fibrosis in patients with chronic Hepatitis C virus infection.
|Serum ferritin and hepatic iron staining were unrelated to the degree of fibrosis but higher in diabetes|
|Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics|
The researchers wanted to determine whether these factors are increased in diabetic patients with Hepatitis C virus.
The team designed a cross-sectional, multi-centre study involving hospitals in the north-east of London between 1992 and 2003.
Patients were enrolled with chronic Hepatitis C followed by a liver biopsy.
The researchers collected data concerning age, sex, basal metabolic index, diabetes mellitus or impaired glucose tolerance, alcohol intake, serum ferritin level and ethnicity.
The investigators scored each biopsy for fibrosis and stained for hepatic iron.
The team enrolled 339 patients (200 Caucasian and 139 Asian) of which 53 patients had no fibrosis, 131 had mild fibrosis (stage 1 to 2 Modified Ishak), 68 moderate fibrosis (stage 3 to 4) and cirrhosis (stage 5 to 6).
4% of patients had elevations in serum ferritin, whilst 11% had increased hepatic iron staining.
The investigative team found that serum ferritin and hepatic iron staining were unrelated to the degree of fibrosis.
In addition, the researchers noted that serum ferritin was significantly higher in patients with diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance compared to non-diabetics.
No association was seen between diabetes and hepatic iron staining.
Dr D'Souza concludes that, “Many patients with chronic Hepatitis C virus infection may have elevated serum ferritin and/or iron deposition within the liver, however, both played no significant role in the progression of Hepatitis C virus related liver injury.”
“The association between chronic Hepatitis C virus infection and type II diabetes mellitus exists, however the biological mechanism of this association still remains to be elucidated.”