Antibody to the recently identified hepatitis C virus (HCV) was investigated in sera of 50 leukemic children who had chronic liver disease (CLD), observed for 1 to 12.6 years after therapy withdrawal. All patients were tested for anti-HCV at regular intervals: Ortho- enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test was performed in all cases. Reactive sera were also tested by recombinant immunoblotting assay to define the specificity of the results obtained by ELISA. Twelve cases (24%) were persistently positive (group A), 11 (22%) were transiently anti-HCV+ positive (group B), and 27 (54%) were negative. Mean SGPT peak during follow-up was significantly higher in group A (P = .014, A v B and P less than .00001, A v C). SGPT normalized off- therapy in 1 of 12 cases (group A), 10 of 11 (group B), and 19 of 27 (group C) (P = .0004, A v B and P = .012, A v C). Accordingly, liver histology, available in 37 patients, showed signs of chronic hepatitis in all patients in group A while most patients in group B and C had less severe liver lesions. These results indicate that HCV plays a significant role in the etiology of chronic hepatitis in leukemic patients and that persistent anti-HCV activity correlates with a more severe CLD, which could jeopardize the final prognosis of children cured of leukemia.

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