People with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection are more likely than their uninfected peers to die from both liver-related and non-liver-related causes, according to a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
For the study, researchers followed 9,378 adult participants, 203 of whom had HCV infection for close to 15 years. Roughly 600 participants died over the course of the study, including 44 of those HCV. Nine out of the 44 died from liver-related causes; the remaining 35 died of other causes, including HIV-related illnesses, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
The scientists found that the mortality rate of those with chronic hepatitis C infection was more than twice that of the other participants in the study. This applied to death from both liver-related and non-liver-related causes.
“While a hepatitis C infection itself may not be the cause of death, patients with the disease may be at a higher risk of dying due to other high-risk behaviors that may have also caused the infection,” said lead author Samer El-Kamary, MPH, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. “Furthermore, it is possible that other comorbidities like diabetes and cardiovascular disease could get worse if there is an underlying hepatitis C infection.”
El-Kamary added that doctors should be quicker to provide hepatitis C testing for those at risk of contracting the disease, so that infected patients can receive treatment as early as possible.