Objective: A liver biopsy is necessary to grade and stage chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. In a previous study of patients with nonalcoholic liver disease, an aspartate aminotransferase (AST) to alanine aminotransferase (ALT) ratio >1 suggested cirrhosis. We sought to examine the value of the AST/ALT ratio in distinguishing cirrhotic patients with chronic HCV infection from noncirrhotic patients and to correlate the ratio with the grade and stage of hepatitis and other biochemical indices. Methods: We retrospectively studied 139 patients with chronic HCV infection. Routine biochemical indices were determined, and the histological grade of necroinflammatory activity and the stage of fibrosis of the liver biopsy specimens were scored. Results: The mean AST/ALT ratio in the cirrhotic patients (n = 47) was higher than in the noncirrhotic patients (n = 92) (1.06 ± 0.06 vs 0.60 ± 0.09; p < 0.001). A ratio ≥1 had 100% specificity and positive predictive value in distinguishing cirrhotic from noncirrhotic patients, with a 53.2% sensitivity and 80.7% negative predictive value. The ratio correlated positively with the stage of fibrosis but not with the grade of activity or other biochemical indices. Of the cirrhotic patients, 17% had no clinical or biochemical features suggestive of chronic liver disease except for an AST/ALT ratio ≥1. Conclusion: The AST/ALT ratio is a dependable marker of fibrosis stage and cirrhosis in patients with chronic HCV infection.
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