Coinfection of Helicobacter pylori and Hepatitis C Virus in the Development of Hepatocellular Carcinoma: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Samragnyi Madala, Kira MacDougall, Balarama Krishna Surapaneni, Robin Park, Mohit Girotra, Anup Kasi


Background: The relationship between Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) was firstly proposed in 1994 after Ward et al demonstrated the role of Helicobacter hepaticus in the development of HCC in mice. Studies also investigated the role of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) coexisting with H. pylori in causing HCC. A causal relationship was never confirmed, and the relationship remains controversial. This meta-analysis aimed to summarize the research on this topic and investigate if a relationship exists between H. pylori infection and the development of HCC and if the presence of HCV and HBV along with H. pylori plays a role in liver carcinogenesis.

Methods: Following PRISMA guidelines, we performed a systematic review of all relevant studies published in the literature using the keywords Helicobacter pylori and hepatocellular carcinoma on major literature databases, including PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, and Cochrane controlled trials register. A total of 656 research studies were identified between 1994 and 2020. Of those, 26 qualified under our selection criteria. Patients who were positive for HCC were classified as cases and those who did not have HCC were classified as controls. The H. pylori status and HCV status, if available, were identified for both groups. Statistical analysis was carried out by a biostatistician according to the Cochrane reviewers handbook.

Results: Out of the 26 studies included in the final analysis, 13 were retrospective case-control studies, 11 were cross-sectional studies, and two were prospective case-control and cohort studies. Overall, the prevalence of H. pylori infection was 64.78% (561 of 866) amongst HCC cases and 47.92% (1,718 of 3,585) in the non-HCC control group. The summary odds ratio (OR) for the association of H. pylori infection with the risk for HCC (using the random-effects model, which accounted for the heterogeneity across the 26 studies) was determined to be 4.75 (95% confidence interval (CI): 3.06 - 7.37, I2 = 63%). We also performed a subgroup analysis to determine the odds of developing HCC in the presence of H. pylori and HCV coinfection. The summary OR of it was 12.76 (95% CI: 4.13 - 39.41, I2 = 78%). The summary OR for the risk of developing HCC in the presence of HCV infection without H. pylori infection was 2.21 (95% CI: 0.70 - 6.94, I2 = 79%). Whereas, the odds of developing HCC in the presence of only H. pylori infection without HCV was found to be 0.54 (95% CI: 0.11 - 2.63, I2 = 80%). There was inconsistency in the data presented in some studies regarding HCV infection status. Since data were extracted from different study designs, subgroup analysis by study design was performed which showed no significant difference between the study groups (P = 0.5705).

Conclusion: This meta-analysis demonstrates a positive association between H. pylori infection and the development of HCC. There is a significantly higher risk of developing HCC in the presence of HCV infection along with H. pylori. Further prospective cohort studies are needed to prove the causal relationship, especially in cases of HBV and HCV coinfection, and cirrhotic patients.

J Clin Med Res. 2021;13(12):530-540


Helicobacter pylori; Hepatitis C virus; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Systematic review; Meta-analysis

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