P Carrieri et al, 2022. Severe liver fibrosis in the HCV cure era: Major effects of social vulnerability, diabetes, and unhealthy behaviors, JHEP Rep, Volume 4 (6).

May 11, 2022

ABSTRACT

Background & aims:
After HCV cure, not all patients achieve significant liver fibrosis regression. We explored the effects of clinical and socio-behavioral factors on liver fibrosis, before and after HCV cure with direct-acting antivirals.

Methods:
We analyzed data from the ongoing ANRS CO22 HEPATHER cohort, which prospectively collects clinical and socio-behavioral data on HCV-infected patients. Mixed-effects logistic regression models helped identify predictors of longitudinal measures of severe liver fibrosis, defined as a fibrosis-4 index >3.25. We also estimated the adjusted population attributable fractions (PAFs) for modifiable risk factors.

Results:
Among the 9,692 study patients (accounting for 24,687 visits over 4 years of follow-up, 48.5% of which were post-HCV cure), 26% had severe fibrosis at enrolment. After multivariable adjustment, HCV-cured patients had an 87% lower risk of severe fibrosis. An inverse dose-response relationship was found for coffee consumption, with the risk of severe fibrosis diminishing by 58% per additional cup/day (adjusted odds ratio (aOR 0.42; 95% CI 0.38-0.46). Unemployment, low educational level, and diabetes were associated with a higher severe fibrosis risk (aOR 1.69; 95% CI 1.32-2.16, aOR 1.50; 95% CI 1.20-1.86, and aOR 4.27; 95% CI 3.15-5.77, respectively). Severe fibrosis risk was 3.6/4.6-fold higher in individuals with previous/current unhealthy alcohol use than in abstinent patients. All these associations remained valid after HCV cure. The risk factors accounting for the greatest severe fibrosis burden were unemployment, low education level, and diabetes (PAFs: 29%, 21%, and 17%, respectively).

Conclusions:
Monitoring liver fibrosis after HCV cure is crucial for patients with low socioeconomic status, previous/current unhealthy alcohol use, and diabetes. Innovative HCV care models for the most socially vulnerable individuals and interventions for healthier lifestyles are needed to reinforce the positive effects of HCV cure on liver health.

Lay summary:
After hepatitis C virus (HCV) cure, not all patients achieve significant liver fibrosis regression. Herein, we studied the effects of clinical and socio-behavioral factors on the risk of severe liver fibrosis. Coffee consumption was strongly inversely associated with severe fibrosis, while diabetes, previous and current unhealthy alcohol use were associated with a 4.3-, 3.6- and 4.6-fold higher risk of severe fibrosis, respectively. Unemployment and low educational level were also associated with a higher risk of severe fibrosis. All these associations remained valid after HCV cure. These results demonstrate the need to continue liver fibrosis monitoring in at-risk groups, and to facilitate healthier lifestyles after HCV cure as a clinical and public health priority.

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