Role of Hepatitis C Infection in Acute Liver Injury/Acute Liver Failure in North America

Ashwin Rao, Jody A. Rule, Giuliana Cerro-Chiang, Richard T. Stravitz, Brendan M. McGuire, Goo Lee, Robert J. Fontana, William M. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: While hepatitis A and B are well-known causes of acute liver failure (ALF), few well-documented cases of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection (absent preexisting liver disease or other liver insults) have been described that result in ALF. We reviewed the Acute Liver Failure Study Group registry for evidence of HCV as a primary or contributing cause to ALF. Methods: From January 1998 to January 2017, 2,332 patients with ALF (INR ≥ 1.5, any degree of hepatic encephalopathy) and 667 with acute liver injury (ALI; INR ≥ 2.0, no hepatic encephalopathy) were enrolled. Anti-HCV testing was done routinely, with confirmatory RT-PCR testing for HCV RNA where necessary. Results: A total of 136 patients were anti-HCV-antibody positive, as follows: 56 HCV RNA negative, 65 HCV RNA positive, and 8 with no result nor sera available for testing. Only three subjects with ALI/ALF were determined to represent acute HCV infection. Case 1: 47-year-old female with morbid obesity (BMI 52.4) developed ALF and recovered, experiencing anti-HCV seroconversion. Case 2: 37-year-old female using cocaine presented with ALI and fully recovered. Case 3: 54-year-old female developed ALF requiring transplantation and was anti-HCV negative but viremic prior to transplant experiencing anti-HCV seroconversion thereafter. Among 1636 APAP overdose patients, the 52 with concomitant chronic HCV had higher 3-week mortality than the 1584 without HCV (31% vs 17%, p = 0.01). Conclusions: ALI/ALF solely related to acute hepatitis C infection is very rare. Chronic HCV infection, found in at least 65 (2.2%) of ALI/ALF patients studied, contributed to more severe outcomes in APAP ALI/ALF; number, NCT000518440. Trial Registration number NCT000518440.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-311
Number of pages8
JournalDigestive Diseases and Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Fulminant hepatic failure
  • Liver transplantation
  • Viral hepatitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Gastroenterology


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