Hepatitis C and Iron
Hepatitis C and Iron
Hepatitis C and IronOver 4 million Americans have been infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hep C infects the liver and is responsible for 10,000 - 12,000 deaths each year.
The liver is the critical organ in the body for the metabolism of iron. Excess iron in the body can be very damaging.
Patients with chronic hepatitis C often have an increase of iron concentration in the liver. Iron load may have a serious effect on HCV infection, and in turn, the HCV may alter regulation of iron homeostasis.
Many studies about the relationship between iron and HCV are inconclusive because there are so many factors to rule out — such as race, gender, age and stage of the disease, and the genetic mutation of the HFE gene present in hemochromatosia — all of which profoundly affect results.
It is also challenging to determine whether the increased iron levels seen in individuals with cirrhotic HCV facilitate progression toward end-stage liver disease or are a result of increased iron in the cirrhotic liver.
But almost all studies suggest that iron overload is associated with
more advanced HCV disease, poor response to interferon monotherapy, and
increased risk of liver cancer. In some studies, increased iron has
actually been shown to enhance the growth of the hepatitis C virus in
the laboratory. There is also general agreement about the likelihood
that iron overload worsens liver disease in HCV through oxidative stress
and affecting cellular immunity. It has also been found that it is not
just the amount of iron in the liver that is important, but also the
distribution of the iron within an HCV-infected liver.
suggests, that people with chronic HCV whose serum iron level is
elevated, or who have cirrhosis, should probably avoid taking iron
supplements. In addition, it suggests they should restrict their intake
of iron-rich foods, such as red meats, liver, and iron-fortified
cereals, and should avoid cooking with iron-coated cookware and
utensils. Iron depletion therapy may be indicated to delay disease
As scientific and medical studies continue to
explore the relationship between iron and HCV, new recommendations are
likely to surface.
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