Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is responsible for both hepatic and extra-hepatic disorders (HCV-EHDs); these latter are correlated on one hand clearly with HCV lymphotropism causing immune-system dysregulation as well as with viral oncogenic potential, and on the other hand probably with chronic inflammatory status causing cardio-metabolic complications as well as neurocognitive disturbances. The spectrum of HCV-EHDs ranges from mild or moderate manifestations, such as arthralgia, sicca syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, to severe, life-threatening complications, mainly vasculitis and neoplastic conditions. Given the clinical heterogeneity of HCV-EHDs, HCV-infected individuals are inevitably referred to different specialists according to the presenting/prevalent symptom(s); therefore, the availability of comprehensive diagnostic guidelines is necessary for a patient's whole assessment that is decisive for early diagnosis and correct therapeutic approach of various hepatic and HCV-EHDs, regardless of the specific competencies of different physicians or referral centers. In this respect, a multidisciplinary network of experts, the International Study Group of Extrahepatic Manifestations Related to Hepatitis C Virus Infection (ISG-EHCV), was organized with the intention to formulate diagnostic guidelines for the work-up of possible HCV-EHDs. There was a broad consensus among ISG-EHCV members on the proposed guidelines, which essentially are based on two main levels of patient's assessment. At the referral stage, it is proposed that all patients with HCV infection should be invariably examined by means of first-line diagnostic procedures including virological and hepatic parameter evaluation, as well as the detection of clinical findings that may suggest one or more HCV-EHDs. This preliminary assessment should reveal specific HCV-EHDs, which will be deeper analyzed by means of second-line, targeted investigations. The proposed multidisciplinary expert statement represents the first attempt to draw comprehensive diagnostic guidelines for HCV-infected individuals encompassing the entire spectrum of HCV-related disorders, namely typical hepatic manifestations along with less common, often unpredictable HCV-EHDs. The HCV-EHDs may compromise to a substantial degree the overall disease outcome in a significant number of HCV-infected individuals that renders their timely identification and treatment an imperative. In conclusion, the application of standardized but thorough diagnostic guidelines of HCV-EHDs is advisable at the referral stage as well as during the follow-up period of HCV infected patients. It is envisioned that the proposed strategy will result in improvement of clinical outcomes in such patients.
Strategische Forschungsbereiche und Zentren
- Forschungsschwerpunkt: Infektion und Entzündung - Zentrum für Infektions- und Entzündungsforschung Lübeck (ZIEL)