Reduced cerebral cortical thickness in Non-cirrhotic patients with hepatitis C
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is associated with fatigue, depression, and cognitive impairment even in the absence of severe liver fibrosis or cirrhosis. HCV has been hypothesised to cause neurodegenerative changes through low-grade neuroinflammation. Our aim was to examine whether cortical thickness (CTh) differs between chronic HCV patients and healthy controls, suggestive of cortical atrophy. In this case–control study 43 HCV patients without severe liver fibrosis, substance abuse, or comorbid HIV or hepatitis B virus infection, and 43 age and sex matched controls underwent MRI. Cortical thickness was measured using a surface based approach. Participants underwent semi-structured psychiatric interview and fatigue was assessed using the fatigue severity scale. HCV was associated with higher fatigue scores, and 58 % of HCV patients suffered from significant fatigue (p < 0.0001). Depression was observed in 16 % of patients. Areas of significantly reduced CTh were found in both left and right occipital cortex and in the left frontal lobe after correction for multiple comparisons (p < 0.05). No association between fatigue, former substance abuse, or psychotropic medication and CTh was found. No overall difference in cerebral white and grey matter volume was found. The findings support the hypothesis that HCV is associated with neurodegenerative changes.
KeywordsHepatitis C Brain Neuroimaging Depression Fatigue Cortical thickness
The study was funded through unrestricted research grants from Roche, Puljen til Styrkelsen af Psykiatrisk Forskning i Region Midt, Region Midts Sundhedsvidenskabelige Forskningsfond, Læge Gerhard Linds Legat, Fonden til Lægevidenskabens Fremme, Marie og Børge Kroghs Fond, Fonden til Forskning i Sindslidelser. Funders exerted no influence upon study design, data collection and analyses, or decision to publish results.
Simon Hjerrild, Signe Groth Renvillard, Leif Hovgaard Sørensen, Leif Østergaard, Simon Fristed Eskildsen, and Poul Videbech declare no conflicts of interest.
Peter Leutscher declares that he has received research grants and personal fees from Roche during the study.
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