The implication of haemochromatosis (HFE) gene mutations in chronic viral hepatitis remains controversial. The aim of the present study was to assess the frequencies of the common haemochromatosis gene mutations in Moroccan subjects with chronic viral hepatitis B and C. H63D and C282Y mutations were screened by using polymerase chain reaction followed by restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis in 170 chronic hepatitis B patients, 168 chronic hepatitis C patients and 200 healthy controls. The distribution of allele frequency was then compared between different groups of patients. No subject homozygous for the C282Y mutation was found while 1.76% and 0% were heterozygous for this mutation in HBV and HCV patients, that is, rates not statistically different from those observed in healthy control (2%, 0.129< p<1.000). Similarly, the frequency of the H63D allele was not significantly different between HBV (13.8%) or HCV (14.3%) patients and controls (13.5%, 0.60< p<0.89). Although they do not reach the significance threshold, serum ferritin levels, indicative of body iron content, were higher in HBV or HCV patients than in control individuals with HFE mutations (110.7±43.61 and 149.67±43.52 ng/ml respectively vs 80.84±21.38 ng/ml, 0.229< p<0.607). In conclusion, in Morocco the frequency of the HFE C282Y allele is very low and H63D mutation carriage occurs in <14% of the subjects, a rate similar in chronic hepatitis patients and control individuals. Thus, we assume that the carriage of the common HFE mutations does not represent a risk factor for evolution towards chronic hepatitis B or C in the genetic and environmental context of North Africa.
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