The contribution of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection to liver disease after bone marrow transplantation (BMT) was retrospectively evaluated in 61 patients treated with BMT. HCV genome, as well as antibodies to HCV, was analyzed in sera collected before and serially after BMT. Six patients had been infected with HCV before BMT and three patients acquired the infection during or shortly after BMT. All patients infected before BMT died within 10 weeks after transplantation. Five of these six patients (83%) died of veno-occlusive disease (VOD), compared with nine of 52 patients (17%) not infected with HCV (P < .005). Risk factors for VOD other than HCV were not more prevalent in these patients compared with uninfected patients. Parallel to the development of VOD, replication of HCV increased, as demonstrated by rising concentrations of viral RNA in serum. HCV infection acquired during or after BMT caused only mild acute hepatitis C, which progressed to chronic hepatitis C in one patient surviving 10 years after BMT. These data suggest that patients with liver disease caused by HCV infection are at high risk of developing lethal VOD after BMT.

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