Objective: To determine, using a serotyping assay, whether the occurrence of extrahepatic immunologic disorders in patients with chronic hepatitis C is dependent on hepatitis C virus serotype.
Design: Prospective study.
Setting: Liver unit and virology laboratory of a university hospital.
Patients: 59 consecutive patients with chronic hepatitis C.
Measurements: Hepatitis C virus serotype was determined using a recently developed immunoenzymatic assay that detects antibodies directed to serotype-specific immunodominant epitopes. Cryoglobulin, rheumatoid factor, and numerous antitissue antibodies were sought. Biopsies of labial salivary glands were done in 49 of the 59 patients.
Results: Prevalence was 59% for serotype 1, 10% for serotype 2, 12% for serotype 3, and 3% for mixed infection. Fifteen percent of patients could not be serotyped. Cryoglobulinemia was found in 36% of patients and rheumatoid factor was found in the serum of 71%. At least one antitissue antibody was found in the serum of 41% of patients; salivary gland biopsy showed lymphocytic capillaritis in 49% of patients. These immunologic abnormalities were seen in patients infected with any of the three serotypes, and prevalences of the abnormalities did not differ significantly among patients infected with different serotypes.
Conclusions: We confirm that the prevalence of extrahepatic immunologic abnormalities is high in patients with chronic hepatitis C. These abnormalities may occur in patients infected with any of the three major hepatitis C virus serotypes now present in developed countries.