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Alcohol Consumption Too Risky For Advanced Liver Disease In HIV/Hep C Patients

Update Date: May 03, 2014 03:27 PM EDT

Consumption of alcohol is associated with an increased risk for advanced liver fibrosis. A new study is suggesting that the association is drastically heightened in people co-infected with both HIV and chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. 

The study even links light drinking to an increased risk of liver fibrosis in the co-infected group. 

Researchers are yet provide a concrete explanation for the cause but according to preclinical studies, two viruses can induce liver cell death and adding alcohol may accelerate that process leading to quicker and severe liver fibrosis. 

"We've shown a much greater risk for coinfected compared to uninfected persons at all levels of alcohol consumption-from nonhazardous drinking up to hazardous/binge drinking and abuse/dependence," said senior author Vincent Lo Re III, MD, MSCE, assistant professor of Medicine and Epidemiology in the division of Infectious Diseases and department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at Penn and an infectious disease physician at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Philadelphia, in the press release.

"This highlights how important it is for clinicians to be counseling co-infected patients on reducing alcohol consumption. More communication and education about the risks of alcohol may prompt patients to reduce drinking or quit altogether, which will help reduce the incidence of complications."

In the research, it was observed that regardless of HIV or HCV status, prevalence of advanced hepatic fibrosis increased as alcohol use category increased. However, the strongest associations were observed in co-infected patients across all alcohol categories compared with uninfected non-hazardous drinkers, the release added.

The research also noted that co-infected individuals with light drinking were 13 times more likely to have advanced liver fibrosis than uninfected persons who reported non-hazardous a.k.a. light drinking. 

"The difference between co-infected and uninfected groups was stark. Given the prevalence of drinking in co-infected individuals, it is important to determine the patterns of alcohol use, such as nonhazardous drinking and even binge drinking, which are not traditionally thought to contribute to liver fibrosis," said Lo Re.

The study has been published online in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. 

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