The genotype of liver disease

Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division

The genotype of liver disease

Approximately 170 million people, or three percent of the world’s population, is chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV).  Some fraction of these people will progress to liver fibrosis, a dangerous condition where scar tissue forms in the liver, but many risk factors for progression remain unknown.  In a study of 1,189 hepatitis C patients, VIDI affiliate investigator Dr. Pierre-Yves Bochud and colleagues found that a certain subtype of the virus, HCV genotype 3, is associated with rapid progression to fibrosis.

Previous smaller studies had hinted at an association between this genotype and liver fibrosis.  The study by Bochud and colleagues was able to draw more concrete conclusions by using a larger number of patients and two different statistical methods to estimate progression to liver fibrosis.  One method assumed that progression to fibrosis was equal at different stages of liver disease, and the other used statistical estimations to predict differences in progression at different disease stages.

The scientists used data from the Swiss Hepatitis C Cohort Study, which enrolls HCV infected patients at eight different Swiss hospitals.  The presence and degree of liver fibrosis was determined by liver biopsy. Taking into account other risk factors for hepatitis disease progression, such as age, alcoholism, and other infections, the authors found that genotype C is associated with more rapid progression to liver fibrosis than other HCV genotypes.  These results may improve disease outcome for patients with genotype 3 by allowing clinicians to choose more appropriate treatment strategies in this population.

Genotype 3 is associated with accelerated fibrosis progression in chronic hepatitis C.  Bochud PY, Cai T, Overbeck K, Bochud M, Dufour JF, Müllhaupt B, Borovicka J, Heim M, Moradpour D, Cerny A, Malinverni R, Francioli P, Negro F; Swiss Hepatitis C Cohort Study Group.  J Hepatol. 2009 Oct;51(4):655-66. .