June 15, 2016
2 min read

HCV prevalent among excessive alcohol drinkers, former drinkers

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Researchers reported that individuals who are current excessive alcohol drinkers or former drinkers are more likely to have hepatitis C virus infection and an increased risk for further liver damage compared with abstainers and nonexcessive drinkers.

“Half of all people living with hepatitis C are not aware of their infection nor the serious medical risks they face when consuming alcohol,” Amber L. Taylor, MPH, of the CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis, said in a press release. “This highlights the need for increased diagnosis as well as comprehensive and effective interventions to link hepatitis C-infected individuals to curative treatments now available and provide education and support needed to reduce alcohol use.”

To determine the relationship between alcohol and HCV, Taylor and colleagues evaluated self-reported data on alcohol use from 20,042 individuals found in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey database between 2003 and 2010. Patients were stratified according to HCV status and alcohol use at four different levels: abstainer, former drinker, nonexcessive current drinker and excessive current drinker.

Results showed that excessive current drinkers (1.5%) and former drinkers (2.2%) had the highest HCV prevalence compared with abstainers (0.4%) and nonexcessive current drinkers (0.9%). Patients with HCV drank three times more often compared with patients who never had HCV (43.8% vs. 13.7%; P < .001). In addition, adults with HCV were 1.7 times more likely to have been former drinkers compared with individuals without HCV (95% CI, 15.7-18.3). In current drinkers, adults with HCV were 1.3 times more likely to be excessive current drinkers compared with adults without HCV (95% CI, 40-42.8).

“Higher prevalence of HCV infection among excessive current drinkers indicated a need for more comprehensive approaches to primary, secondary and tertiary care,” Taylor and colleagues wrote.

In simple logistic models, the researchers found that excessive current drinking was more likely to be found in individuals who were younger, male, had income below twice the poverty level, no education above high school, had HCV and no usual source of health insurance or medical care. HCV was associated with excessive drinking and former drinking with an adjusted prevalence ratio of 1.3 (95% CI, 1.1-1.6 for both), after controlling for age, sex, education, ethnicity and source of health care.

“Alcohol promotes faster development of fibrosis and progression to cirrhosis in people living with hepatitis C, making drinking a dangerous and often deadly activity,” Taylor said. “In 2010, alcohol-related liver disease ranked third as a cause of death among people with hepatitis C.” – by Melinda Stevens

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.