NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – In patients with chronic hepatitis C infection, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid contains significantly more neutrophils than does lavage fluid from healthy control subjects, according to results of a Turkish study. This increase in cell counts may contribute to the small proportion of HCV patients who develop idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, investigators suggest in the Journal of Medical Virology for January 2.
Dr. Ramazan Idilman, of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois, and associates obtained bronchoalveolar lavage fluid from 18 patients with chronic HCV and from 14 healthy volunteers. Among the patients, the median duration of disease between histological diagnosis and performance of the bronchoscopy was 8.1 months.
None of the patients exhibited clinical or radiological signs of respiratory problems. Two had developed cirrhosis, including the one patient with the longest interval between diagnosis and participation in this study (61 months).
Lavage neutrophil counts were significantly higher in the patients than in the controls,
1,175,800/mL versus 53,100/mL (p = 0.029). B cell counts were also higher, though not significantly higher, at 5.6% versus 2.3%. Otherwise, lymphocyte, macrophage, eosinophil counts, and percents of T cell markers did not differ between the two groups.
Dr. Idilman's group posits that "HCV may have the potential to induce an alveolitis leading to fibrotic changes in the lung over a period of years or decades that could potentially lead to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis."