Does dual infection by hepatitis B and C viruses play an important role in the pathogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma in Japan?Cancer 1997; 80(11):2060-7C
There are contradictory data concerning the synergistic effect of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection on the progression from chronic hepatitis to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
To clarify the role of coinfection with HBV and HCV in the progression and pathogenesis of HCC, viral and clinicopathologic features were studied in 368 consecutive HCC patients at the University of Tokyo from 1991-1995.
Approximately 83% of patients (305 patients) were seropositive for the HCV antibody ("C-viral") and approximately 10% (37 patients) were positive for the hepatitis B surface antigen ("B-viral"). Positivity for both (dual infection) was found in only 2% of patients, and negativity for both in 5%. The incidence of dual infection in HCC patients was Similar to that in 549 patients with chronic hepatitis (1%) and 119 patients with cirrhosis (1%). Of the six HCC patients with dual infection, five patients were positive for the HBV early antigen and HBV DNA was less than measurable, whereas HCV RNA was detected and ranged from 10(3)-10(6) copies/50 microL of serum by competitive reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, and the clinical features resembled those of "C-viral" HCC. The remaining patient was early antigen positive and had HBV DNA by slot blot analysis, but the serum HCV RNA level was less than measurable. These data indicate that mutually exclusive viral replication occurred in patients with persistent coinfection. To further clarify further the possible involvement of HBV infection in "C-viral" HCC, HBV core antibody (HBcAb) was tested in 192 patients and was found to be positive in 111 and negative in 81. The serum HCV RNA level and clinicopathologic features (such as age and the severity of liver disease) were similar among the "C-viral" HCC patients irrespective of the presence or absence of HBcAb.
Based on these results, coinfection was found to be much less prevalent than generally is claimed, and even in a few HCC patients with the coinfection the mutually exclusive viral replication was noted, suggesting that coinfection plays little if any role in the development of HCC.