Objective: To assess the role of hepatitis G virus (HGV) in cryptogenic chronic liver disease (CLD), we investigated the prevalence of HGV RNA among patients with cryptogenic CLD, patients with nonviral CLD (primary biliary cirrhosis [PBC] and Wilson's disease [WD]) and subjects without clinically evident liver disease (controls). Methods: Ninety patients with cryptogenic CLD (43 with chronic hepatitis, 20 with cirrhosis, and 27 with hepatocellular carcinoma [HCC]), 143 patients with PBC, 22 patients with WD, and 134 controls were recruited. HGV RNA was detected by reverse transcription- polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and antibodies against HGV E2 protein (anti-E2) by an immunoassay test. Results: HGV RNA was detected in 7.8% of patients with cryptogenic CLD (chronic hepatitis, 9.3%; cirrhosis, 5.0%; HCC, 7.4%), in 2.4% of patients with PBC or WD, and in 2.2% of controls. As a consequence, a positive association of HGV infection with cryptogenic CLD was found (odds ratio, 3.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.0-9.7; p = 0.05). No difference was observed between HGV RNA-positive and -negative patients by age, sex, histology, or liver function tests. Anti-E2 prevalence did not differ between patients with cryptogenic CLD (26.5%), patients with PBC (28.1%), and controls (22.1%). Transfusion history was associated with HGV RNA but not with anti-E2 seropositivity. Conclusions: Although an association was found between cryptogenic CLD and HGV infection, the role of the virus seems far from important, the proportion of cryptogenic CLD attributable to it being only 5.2%.
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