African Americans infected with the hepatitis C virus may be less likely to respond to therapy with interferon because of elevated levels of iron in their bodies, according to a study reported in the April issue of Hepatology.
Prior studies have found that African Americans have a diminished response to interferon therapy, but they could not explain just why this phenomenon occurred.
George N. Ioannou, of the University of Washington, and his colleagues investigated whether African-Americans infected with the hepatitis C virus have more iron in their bodies than uninfected persons. They used data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Ioannou and his colleagues found that infected African Americans were five times more likely to have increased iron stores than infected people of other races.
The researchers found that increased iron stores are associated with higher ALT (alanine aminotransferase) elevations. Infected African Americans with elevated ALT were 18 times more likely to have increased iron.
The researchers concluded that their findings might partly explain the reduced response of HCV-positive African-Americans to antiviral treatment.
Other sources: Hepatology 37:795-801