In 1994, the team of Tchernev and Petrova from Alexandrovska Hospital in Sofia examined a female patient with liver cirrhosis caused by chronic Hepatitis C virus (HCV). They were intrigued by the patient's many extra-hepatic manifestations -- vascular lesions on the lower limbs, acute pain in the joints, intense tingling of the fingers, and extreme labor-impairing fatigue. They were also intrigued by the presence of cryoglobulins in the patient's blood. Two years later, the patient developed enlarged lymph nodes on the neck. When one of the nodes was histologically tested, the patient was found to have lymphoma.
This case spurred the interest of the investigators in the extra-hepatic manifestations and complications of HCV infection, and for over a decade they studied the links between HCV infection, cryoglobulinemia, and lymphoma.
A research article published on December 28, 2007 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology addresses this problem. In a study of 136 Bulgarian patients with HCV, the team of Tchernev and Petrova found 76.5% of the patients had extra-hepatic manifestations. Common manifestations were fatigue (59.6%), renal impairment (25%), type 2 diabetes (22.8%), paresthesia (19.9%), arthralgia (18.4%), and purpura predominantly of the lower limbs (17.6%). Over 37% of the patients had cryoglobulins, and 8.8% had B-cell lymphoma.
The study found positive links between the presence of extra-hepatic manifestations and age, female gender, duration of the infection, infection by transfusion of blood and blood products, and extensive liver fibrosis. Therefore, elderly women with chronic HCV and advanced liver fibrosis, who were infected by transfusion during childbirth, are at the highest risk of developing extra-hepatic manifestations of HCV infection.
The study also showed most extra-hepatic manifestations of HCV infection are associated with the presence of cryoglobulins. In particular, the risks of developing B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma are much higher in cryoglobulin-positive than in cryoglobulin-negative patients. In the study, 17.6% of cryoglobulin-positive patients had lymphoma, whereas only 3.5% of cryoglobulin-negative patients did.
Given the prevalence of HCV around the world, it is important for physicians to recognize the extra-hepatic signs and symptoms of HCV infection. Patients who exhibit such manifestations should be tested for HCV infection. This can lead to prompt diagnosis and effective treatment of the infection before the development of cryoglobulinemia, when treatment gives poor results or is ineffective.
6.1 Reference: Stefanova-Petrova DV, Tzvetanska AH, Naumova EJ, Mihailova AP, Hadjiev EA, Dikova RP, Vukov MI, Tchernev KG. Chronic hepatitis C virus infection: Prevalence of extrahepatic manifestations and association with cryoglobulinemia in Bulgarian patients. World J Gastroenterol 2007; 13(48): 6518-6528
6.2 Correspondence to: Dr. Diana Vasileva Stefanova-Petrova, Department of Gastroenterology, Alexandrovska Hospital, 1 Georgi Sofiiski St, Sofia 1431, Bulgaria. firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone: +359888579043 Fax: +35929230654
6.3 About World Journal of Gastroenterology
World Journal of Gastroenterology (WJG), a leading international journal in gastroenterology and hepatology, has established a reputation for publishing first class research on esophageal cancer, gastric cancer, liver cancer, viral hepatitis, colorectal cancer, and H pylori infection and provides a forum for both clinicians and scientists. WJG has been indexed and abstracted in Current Contents/Clinical Medicine, Science Citation Index Expanded (also known as SciSearch) and Journal Citation Reports/Science Edition, Index Medicus, MEDLINE and PubMed, Chemical Abstracts, EMBASE/Excerpta Medica, Abstracts Journals, Nature Clinical Practice Gastroenterology and Hepatology, CAB Abstracts and Global Health. ISI JCR 2003-2000 IF: 3.318, 2.532, 1.445 and 0.993. WJG is a weekly journal published by WJG Press. The publication dates are the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th day of every month. The WJG is supported by The National Natural Science Foundation of China, No. 30224801 and No. 30424812, and was founded with the name of China National Journal of New Gastroenterology on October 1, 1995, and renamed WJG on January 25, 1998.
6.4 About The WJG Press
The WJG Press mainly publishes World Journal of Gastroenterology.