To describe the prevalence, main characteristics, and treatment of severe autoimmune cytopenias [autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura (AITP)] in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.
Retrospective chart review of patients with chronic HCV infection seen at our institution. Two additional departments contributed eight more patients to assess therapy of HCV-related autoimmune cytopenias.
Eight patients (seven AITP, one AIHA) fulfilled the inclusion criteria in our population of 4345 HCV-infected patients. The number of patients with AITP was much greater than would be expected by chance (P<0.0001). Patients with HCV-related AITP were older and demonstrated more immunological markers than a group of 40 controls. Eight additional patients (six AITP, two Evans syndrome) were included. We only assessed the response for AITP patients because of the single case of AIHA. Patients with AITP had a poor response to initial corticosteroids [one complete response (CR), three partial response (PR), and four failures]. Intravenous immunoglobulins led to transient efficacy in three of four patients. In second-line therapy, five of seven patients responded to splenectomy. Rituximab proved effective in increasing platelets in two patients. Of eight patients treated with antiviral therapy (IFN-α±ribavirin), five responded (three CR, two PR).
AITP occurs more commonly in patients with chronic HCV infection than would be expected by chance. HCV-positive AITP requires a treatment strategy different from that used in HCV-negative AITP. On the basis of the results from our study and a literature analysis, we propose an algorithm for treatment of severe HCV-related autoimmune cytopenias.