Hepatitis C strongly linked to type 2 diabetes

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People infected with hepatitis C virus have an increased risk of developing type 2, or “adult-onset” diabetes, a population-based study confirms. This risk is particularly high in younger people who are overweight, researchers from Taiwan have found.

Therefore, screening for and preventing diabetes in persons with HCV infection could be started earlier than the suggested age of 45 or older, which is the recommendation for the general population, especially for patients with are heavier or who have other diabetes risk factors for diabetes, Dr. Chong-Shan Wang from National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, and colleagues write in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Among 4,958 people age 40 or older without diabetes, 3,486 tested negative and 812 tested positive for HCV. Another 116 subjects were infected with both HCV and HCV infection, and 544 tested positive for hepatitis B.

A total of 474 people developed diabetes during the 7 years that they were followed. After adjusting the data to account for established diabetes risk factors, the incidence of diabetes was 70 percent higher in persons with HCV infection than in those without HCV infection, Dr. Wang and colleagues report.

“HBV plus HCV-coinfected and anti-HCV+ alone persons had nearly the same risk, which indicates that HCV infection increases the risk of diabetes but HBV infection does not,” the authors note. “This finding is consistent with past studies showing that HCV infection is highly associated with diabetes.”

After studying the diabetes risks according to age, the younger group with HCV infection was at greater risk for the disease, the Taiwan team notes.

HCV infection plus being overweight or obese magnified the risk of diabetes by about three times compared with uninfected persons of normal weight.

They conclude that regular diabetes screening for HCV-infected persons should start at a younger age, especially for those with other risk factors.

SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology, July 15, 2007.