New study shows that people infected with the hepatitis C virus which is known to be at risk for liver damage, may also spell heart trouble.
- A condition known as atherosclerosis and a common forerunner of heart attacks and strokes was found in a research study.
- Person who chronically infected with hepatitis C were more likely to harbor abnormal fat-and-calcium plaques inside their arteries.
According to study principal investigator,Eric Seaberg, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “We have strong reason to believe that infection with hepatitis C fuels cardiovascular disease, independent of HIV and sets the stage for subsequent cardiovascular trouble.”
The study involved 994 men 40 to 70-years old without overt heart disease. Of the 994,613 were infected with HIV, 70 were infected with both viruses and 17 were only infected with hepatitis C. Those infected with hepatitis C, regardless of HIV status, had average, 30 percent more disease-fueling calcified plaque in their arteries, the main driver of heart attack and stroke risk.
People infected with either HIV or hepatitis C, on average, had 42 percent more non-calcified fatty buildup, a type of plaque believed to confer the greatest cardiac risk. Investigators emphasize they don’t know exactly how infection with the hepatitis C virus precipitates the growth of artery-clogging plaque but that their evidence is strong enough to warrant vigilant monitoring for cardiac symptoms among people infected with the virus.
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease affecting primarily the liver, caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The infection is often a symptomatic, but chronic infection can lead to scarring of the liver and ultimately to cirrhosis, which is generally apparent after many years. In some cases, those with cirrhosis will go on to develop liver failure, liver cancer, or life-threatening esophageal and gastric varices.
HCV is spread primarily by blood-to-blood contact associated with intravenous drug use, poorly sterilized medical equipment, and transfusions. An estimated 150–200 million people worldwide are infected with the existence of (originally identifiable only as a type of non-A non-B hepatitis) was suggested in the 1970s and proven in 1989. Hepatitis C infects only humans and chimpanzees. It is one of five known hepatitis viruses: A, B, C, D, and E.
The virus persists in the liver in about 85% of those infected. This chronic infection can be treated with medication: the standard therapy is a combination of peginterferon and ribavirin, with either boceprevir or telaprevir added in some cases. Overall, 50–80% of people treated are cured. Those who develop cirrhosis or liver cancer may require a liver transplant. Hepatitis C is the leading reason for liver transplantation, though the virus usually recurs after transplantation. No vaccine against hepatitis C is available. About 343,000 deaths due to liver cancer from hepatitis C occurred in 2013, up from 198,000 in 1990. An additional 358,000 in 2013 occurred due to cirrhosis.IMAGE/gettyimages