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Hepatic Giant Cells in HCV moninfection and HCV/HIV Co-Infection
  1. Shien TL Micchelli
  1. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, United States
    1. David Thomas
    1. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, United States
      1. John K Boitnott
      1. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, United States
        1. Michael Torbenson (mtorben{at}
        1. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, United States


          Aim: The clinical and biological significance of syncytial giant cell change of hepatocytes in hepatitis C (HCV) infection is poorly understood. We investigated the clinical and histological correlates of giant cell transformation in the setting of HCV mono-infection and co-infection with HCV and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

          Methods: The prevalence of hepatocyte giant cell transformation was determined and serological, biochemical and histological findings were examined.

          Results: Amongst 856 liver biopsies, 22 cases (2.6%) showed giant cell transformation, representing 18 individuals. The median serum ALT was 37 IU, AST 49 IU, and alkaline phosphatase 97 IU. Eleven cases had HCV RNA loads available, with a median HCV RNA of 5.52 log IU/mL. Twelve of 17 individuals with available test results were also HIV positive (71%), compared to 46% of controls, p= 0.08. Giant cell transformation was found exclusively in zone 3 hepatocytes and the accompanying histological findings were otherwise typical of chronic HCV. The hepatic giant cells typically had a cytoplasmic appearance that resembled smooth endoplasmic reticulum proliferation. Most cases had only mild inflammation and fibrosis, with a median MHAI grade of 3/18 and a median MHAI stage of 1/6. Three individuals had follow-up biopsies and all continued to have giant cell change.

          Conclusion: In conclusion, giant cell transformation occurs most commonly in the setting of HCV/HIV co-infection, but can also be seen in chronic HCV infection alone. Histologically, giant cells were located in zone 3 hepatocytes, were persistent over time, and do not appear to be a marker of aggressive hepatitis.

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