News from Hepatitis Week of July 27, 2003 / Vol. 3 No. 30

Study: Even Moderate Alcohol Consumption Worsens Hepatitis C

Moderate alcohol consumption increases oxidative stress in patients with chronic hepatitis C and worsens their condition, according to a study reported in the July issue of Hepatology.

Recognizing that the mechanisms in which alcohol impacts chronic hepatitis C are poorly understood, a group of Italian researchers investigated the possible interaction between the two.

Oxidative stress in a cell occurs when there are too many free radicals present. Free radicals, according to some researchers, generally cause mayhem inside cells.

The researchers compared markers of oxidative stress in 145 chronic hepatitis C patients who consumed alcohol at varying levels to a group of healthy participants and heavy drinkers without hepatitis C who both participated as control groups.

The risk of developing oxidative stress during chronic hepatitis C was increased three-fold by moderate drinking and 13- to 24-fold by heavy alcohol consumption, the researchers found. They also noted that heavy-drinking patients with hepatitis C suffered significantly more liver cell death and liver scarring than abstainers.

"Even moderate alcohol consumption promotes oxidative stress in chronic hepatitis C patients, suggesting a role for oxidative injury in the worsening of chronic hepatitis C evolution by alcohol," concluded the researchers.

Other sources: Hepatology 2003;38:42-49