Hepatic fibrosis is associated with excessive in vitro lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced production of interleukin-1 (IL-1) in chronic liver diseases (chronic hepatitis B, primary biliary cirrhosis, and alcoholic cirrhosis etc). We measured IL-1β production in LPS-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. The levels of IL-1β production in chronic HCV infection were significantly higher than in healthy controls, but were not correlated with the grade of hepatic fibrosis, the levels of hepatic inflammation, or the levels of HCV RNA in serum. Asymptomatic HCV carriers showed equivalent levels of IL-1β production to patients with chronic active hepatitis and liver cirrhosis (10.59 ± 4.76, 11.52 ± 2.03 and 11.18 ± 4.05 ng/ml, respectively). The levels of IL-1β production of interferon (IFN)- treated patients with chronic hepatitis C who showed a loss of HCV RNA in their sera were equivalent to those of healthy controls (6.59 ± 3.82, 6.58 ±2.03 ng/ml, respectively). PBMC positive for HCV negative-stranded RNA (replicative form of HCV) from asymptomatic HCV carriers and IFN-treated patients showed augmented IL-1β production as compared with PBMC without HCV negative-stranded RNA, HCV infection of PBMC appears to lead to excessive LPS-induced production of IL-1β in patients with chronic HCV infection.
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