People infected with the hepatitis C virus are already known to be at risk for liver damage, and results of a new study now shows that the infection may also spell heart trouble.
“People infected with hepatitis C are already followed regularly for signs of liver disease, but our findings suggest clinicians who care for them should also assess their overall cardiac risk profile regularly,” said study author Wendy Post, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, US.
Although HIV and hepatitis C infections often occur together and people infected with HIV are already known to have an elevated risk for heart disease, the new study offers strong evidence that hepatitis C can spark cardiovascular damage independent of HIV.
“We have strong reason to believe that infection with hepatitis C fuels cardiovascular disease, independent of HIV and sets the stage for subsequent cardiovascular trouble,” study principal investigator Eric Seaberg, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, noted.
“We believe our findings are relevant to anyone infected with hepatitis C regardless of HIV status,” Seaberg pointed out. The study involved 994 men 40 to 70-years old without overt heart disease.
Of the 994,613 were infected with HIV, 70 were infected with both viruses and 17 were only infected with hepatitis C. Those infected with hepatitis C, regardless of HIV status, had, on average, 30 percent more disease-fueling calcified plaque in their arteries, the main driver of heart attack and stroke risk.
People infected with either HIV or hepatitis C, on average, had 42 percent more non-calcified fatty buildup, a type of plaque believed to confer the greatest cardiac risk.
The study appeared in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.