From autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) classification which recognizes three types of AIH, we discuss the main relations between hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and AIH. Type I AIH is associated with antinuclear and antismooth muscle antibodies, and with other autoimmune diseases. There is no relation between type I AIH and HCV. Type I anti-liver kidney microsome and anti-liver cytosol I antibodies represent the hallmark of type II AIH. Among type II AIH, two subgroups emerged: type IIa AIH (10-40%) are true AIH (sensitive to steroids but worsens with interferon alpha), whereas type IIb AIH (60-90%) appear as a particular form of HCV hepatitis. Type IIb AIH have a moderate activity, a low titer of autoantibodies, anti-GOR antibodies but never anti-liver cytosol I, no sensitivity to steroids but are sensitive to interferon alpha. The hallmark of type III AIH are anti-cytosol antibodies, but these AIH have the same characteristics as type I AIH. The classification between true AIH (I, IIa, III) or "pseudo-AIH" due to HCV infection has major therapeutic implications. Steroids or immunosuppressive treatments are effective in type I, IIa and III AIH but have no efficacy in type IIb AIH. Alpha interferon has an efficacy in type IIb AIH, but it has no efficacy and may even worsen hepatitis in type I, IIa and III AIH.
Author: Cacoub P, De Lacroix-Szmania I, Gatel A, Sbai A, Tazi Z, Godeau P, Service de medecine interne, hopital de la Pitie-Salpetriere, Paris, France. Source: Rev Med Interne 17: 131-134 (1996)