Although erythrocyte filterability plays a key role in microcirculation, it is unknown whether the filterability of erythrocytes from patients with chronic hepatitis C (CH-C) is impaired. This study aimed to investigate erythrocyte filterability in CH-C patients in relation to medical treatment. The mean erythrocyte filterability (%) for all 24 patients with CH-C (69.2 ± 10.8%) was significantly lower than that for 5 normal controls (80.5 ± 1.7%, P < 0.03). In 8 patients, the combination therapy of ribavirin (RBV) and interferon improved liver function but caused anemia. The filterability after treatment (57.8 ± 12.8%) was lower than that before treatment (70.8 ± 9.7%, P < 0.05). Decreased filterability showed no correlation with the mean corpuscular volume or mean corpuscular Hb concentration during treatment, suggesting that the decrease in filterability mainly arises from changes in erythrocyte membrane properties. We investigated the protective effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) on the RBV-induced anemia. Filterability in 7 responders was markedly improved from 68.4 ± 4.6% to 77.4 ± 2.4% (P < 0.001), but not in 3 nonresponders. In the responders, the progression of anemia was restrained. In conclusion, we found an obvious impairment of the filterability of erythrocytes from CH-C patients, further impairment of the filterability induced by oxidative membrane damage caused by RBV leading to hemolytic anemia, and amelioration of the filterability caused by the antioxidative effects of EPA.
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