Hepatitis C virus-infected patients with a persistently normal alanine aminotransferase: do they exist and is this really a group with mild disease?
Opinion varies on whether or not hepatitis C virus (HCV) infected patients with persistently normal aminotransferase (PNALT) levels represent a group with mild disease. To evaluate the risk of ALT flare and fibrosis progression in patients with PNALT followed up as part of the Trent HCV cohort. Treatment-naïve patients with an elevated ALT (n = 1140) or PNALT, the latter defined as either an ALT < or = 30 IU/L (n = 43) or an ALT < or = 40 IU/L (n = 87) on > or =2 occasions in the 6 months following diagnosis, and no ALT > 40 U/L were included. The likelihood of maintaining a PNALT < or = 30 IU/L was 42.2% and PNALT < or = 40 IU/L 41.7% at 3 years. The Ishak fibrosis score was > or =3 in 3.7%, 8.3% and 29.6% of patients with PNALT < or = 30 IU/L, PNALT < or = 40 IU/L and elevated ALT, respectively. Fibrosis progression between paired biopsies was similar for patients with PNALT < or = 30 IU/L (0.33 +/- 0.94 Ishak fibrosis points/year), PNALT < or = 40 IU/L (0.35 +/- 0.82) and elevated ALT (0.19 +/- 0.48). The majority of those defined as PNALT subsequently have an abnormal ALT. They have a similar risk of disease progression to other HCV infected patients and, therefore, warrant the same consideration with regard to treatment.
- Pathology