Patients with chronic Hepatitis C virus infection who consume large quantities of alcohol have more severe liver disease compared with Hepatitis C patients without a history of alcohol consumption.
The mechanism by which alcohol worsens Hepatitis C related liver disease is not properly understood.
A possibility is that alcohol stimulates Hepatitis C replication.
Professor Anand and colleagues from Texas performed a meta-analysis to examine this issue.
The effect of alcohol on viral titres was assessed in 3 ways, firstly by comparing the heaviest drinkers with non-drinkers.
The investigators also considered the effect of graded doses of alcohol, and the effect of abstinence in the same individual.
|5 studies showed a positive relationship between alcohol use and Hep C|
The investigative team reported that a total of 14 studies were identified.
The team pooled 3 studies and showed a significant association between patients with the highest alcohol use and viral load.
The investigators observed that 5 studies had a positive direction, while the remaining 4 studies found a negative relationship.
Analysis of the combined results showed no association between alcohol consumption and virus levels.
Assessment of graded doses of alcohol also showed no significant difference between non-drinkers and moderate drinkers, or non-drinkers and heavy drinkers.
The investigators found no difference between graded doses of alcohol and moderate drinkers or heavy drinkers.
In addition, the team reported that 5 studies examined the influence of abstinence on viral titres but none provided sufficient data for statistical analysis.
Professor Anand's team commented, “The present study has failed to show an association between alcohol use and Hepatitis C viral titres.”
“These observations raise the possibility that the hepatic damage caused by alcohol and Hepatitis C may be purely additive, involving different mechanisms and pathways.”