Evidence of autoimmune disease associated with hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infection has important clinical implications. A systematic profile of these autoantibodies in relevant clinical cohorts relative to healthy controls is needed to better inform current standard of care for chronic hepatitis C. Samples from an Australian cohort of chronic HCV-infected subjects (n=127) were tested for the presence of 19 diagnostic autoantibodies and compared with data available from a control cohort representing a general Caucasian population (n=198). Chronic HCV-infected individuals had a greater number of autoantibodies than controls (p<0.0001). Anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA) followed by anti-smooth muscle antibodies (SMA) were the most frequently detected autoantibodies within the HCV cohort and significantly more than in the control cohort (p<0.0001 and p=0.006, respectively). However, for most autoantibody assays the 95th percentile approximated the reference value for positivity. None of the autoantibodies were significantly associated with age or sex for the HCV cohort, except SMA positivity that was significantly higher in chronic HCV-infected male subjects (p<0.0001). Autoantibodies found in chronic HCV-infected subjects were commonly low positive and not disease-specific. Accordingly, general screening for autoimmunity in HCV-infected subjects should not be performed unless there is high clinical suspicion of an underlying autoimmune disease.
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