Hepatitis C virus (HCV) chronic infection may be associated with a great number of both hepatic and extrahepatic manifestations. HCV lymphotropism is responsible for poly-oligoclonal B-lymphocyte expansion, which is the common underlying alteration in a significant percentage of HCV-infected individuals. The consequent production of different autoantibodies and immune-complexes, including cryoglobulins, may lead to organ- and non-organ-specific immunological alterations. Mixed cryoglobulinemia, a small-vessel systemic vasculitis, is characterized by the coexistence of autoimmune and lymphoproliferative alterations; therefore, it represents the prototype of HCV-associated disorders. Moreover, HCV shows an oncogenic potential; several studies support its pathogenetic link with some malignancies, mainly hepatocellular carcinoma and B-cell lymphomas. On the whole, HCV-related disorders present a heterogeneous geographical distribution, suggesting a role of other important genetic and/or environmental cofactors. While the majority of HCV-infected individuals is asymptomatic or may develop only liver manifestations, a significant percentage of them may develop a variable combination of autoimmune lymphoproliferative disorders. The resulting multiform clinico-pathological condition can be termed HCV syndrome. The natural history of HCV syndrome is the expression of multifactorial and multistep pathogenetic process, which usually proceeds from mild, often isolated manifestations to systemic immune-mediated disorders, and less frequently to overt malignancies.
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