Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infects about 170 million people worldwide, and has been portrayed in the media as a silent killer, incorrectly implying that cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma are the certain final outcomes of infection. Results of numerous population-based surveys indicate that chronic HCV infection is highly prevalent in elderly people who, in most instances, do not develop end-stage liver disease. In individuals who do progress to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma alcohol plays a fundamental part, via mechanisms that result in increased viral replication, enhanced HCV quasispecies complexity, increased liver-cell death, suppression of immune responses, and iron overload. Although overlaps are present in the histological appearance of the liver in patients with hepatitis C who do and do not drink alcohol, histology could be of some help in revealing the role of alcohol in HCV disease progression even in people who deny drinking. Interventions and high-impact, continuous public-health campaigns are needed to persuade doctors and patients infected with HCV of the importance of abstaining from alcohol if risk of progression towards cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma is to be reduced.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases