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Hepatitis C Increases Diabetes Risk

NEW YORK, Oct 16 (Reuters Health) -

People who are 40 years of age or older and infected with hepatitis C have more than triple the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the type of diabetes that commonly occurs in adulthood.

Nearly 3 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C, a viral infection of the liver. The virus can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer and is the leading cause of liver transplant in the US. In the new study, Shruti Mehta and associates from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland looked at more than 9,800 adults who took part in a health survey. Just over 8% of the study participants had type 2 diabetes and about 2% had evidence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, according to a report in the October 17th issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine

The rate of type 2 diabetes was notably higher in the HCV-positive group than in the HCV-negative group, the researchers note, except in persons younger than 40 years of age. In the 40 to 49 year age group, those with HCV infection were 3.1 times as likely to have type 2 diabetes as those without HCV infection.

Previous studies have linked HCV to diabetes, but only in people with severe liver disease. These results confirm that type 2 diabetes occurs at higher rates even among patients with milder forms of HCV infection, the authors conclude.

Further research is needed to determine exactly how HCV contributes to the development of diabetes. However, Mehta and colleagues believe that the findings are "consistent with the inference that HCV infection causes type 2 diabetes through progressive liver damage."

SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine 2000;133:592-599.

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