A large study has found no association between rheumatoid arthritis and the hepatitis C virus (HCV), according to a report in the March issue of the Journal of Rheumatology.
Although the subject has not been well studied, some experts have believed that infectious organisms such as HCV can trigger rheumatoid arthritis in susceptible individuals.
Smaller clinical-based studies appeared to have turned up a positive association between rheumatoid arthritis and hepatitis C virus infection.
Using data from a large population-based study, researchers at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System set out to determine just how many participants aged 60 and over had signs of hepatitis C and were also suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
Out of 4,769 study participants, the researchers found that 196 subjects or 4.1 percent met the their criteria for having rheumatoid arthritis, while 63 or 1.3 percent tested positive for anti-HCV antibodies and 35 or 0.7 percent were HCV RNA positive.
Only two participants had both HCV antibodies and rheumatoid arthritis, while one subject was both HCV RNA positive and had rheumatoid arthritis.
"HCV antibody positivity was not associated with rheumatoid arthritis," concluded the researchers. "Similarly, HCV positivity by polymerase chain reaction was not associated with rheumatoid arthritis. These results argue against a potential role for HCV in the etiology of rheumatoid arthritis in the U.S. population aged 60 years and over."
Other sources: Journal of Rheumatology (2003;30:455-8)