Objective: Hepatitis C virus infection is closely associated not only with hepatic damage, but also with mixed cryoglobulinemia (MC) and other autoimmune and lymphoproliferative disorders. Because HCV is both hepatotropic and lymphotropic, the aim of this study was to investigate whether the genetic background may influence the clinical pattern seen in different patients. Method: Two groups of patients with HCV infection were studied: 16 with type II MC and 18 with chronic active hepatitis (CAH). 120 bone marrow donors were considered as the control group. In all patients HLA-A-B-C antigens were evaluated using the microlymphocytoxicity technique, and HLA-DR by the PCR-SSP method. Results: The frequency of the HLA antigens expressed was not precisely defined in the two groups. However, the HLA-B51 and B35 antigens, which are often correlated with autoimmune disorders, were highly expressed in the MC patients (31.2%) compared to the controls (6.9%) and to the CAH group (11%). Moreover, HLA-A9 with its split A24 were present in 50% of the MC patients. More interesting was the expression of the HLA-DR7 antigen, which was found only in the CAH group, suggesting that it may influence the specific liver involvement in HCV infections. Conclusion: These findings indicate that the HLA system may play an important role in the clinical manifestations of HCV infection.
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