THURSDAY, Feb. 24, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Hepatitis C virus (HCV) positivity is associated with development of schizophrenia, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience.

Jur-Shan Cheng, Ph.D., from Chang Gung University in Taoyuan, Taiwan, and colleagues conducted a nationwide study using the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database from 2003 to 2012 to examine the potential association between HCV infection and schizophrenia. Three propensity score-matched cohorts were included from a total population of 19,298,735 individuals: 8,931 HCV-infected patients receiving interferon-based therapy for at least six months (HCV-treated); 17,862 individuals with HCV not receiving treatment (HCV-untreated); and 17,862 HCV-uninfected individuals. Overall, 82.81 percent of the total sample were aged 40 years or older.

The researchers found that the nine-year cumulative incidence of schizophrenia was highest in the HCV-untreated group (0.870 percent); a similar cumulative incidence of schizophrenia was seen for the HCV-treated and HCV-uninfected cohorts (0.251 and 0.118 percent, respectively). There was an independent association seen for HCV positivity with development of schizophrenia (hazard ratio, 3.469). The highest cumulative incidence of overall mortality was also seen in the HCV-untreated cohort (20.799 percent); the cumulative incidence of mortality did not differ significantly between the HCV-treated and HCV-uninfected cohorts (12.518 and 6.707 percent, respectively).

“In the era of direct-acting antivirals to eliminate HCV infection, anti-HCV therapy should be prescribed for all people infected with HCV to reduce the risk not only of hepatic complications, but also of extrahepatic complications, including schizophrenia,” the authors write.

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