Due to their high prevalence in the general population, alcohol use and abuse can be associated with hepatitis B and C virus infections and it has been demonstrated that alcohol plays a role as a co-morbid factor in the development of liver disease.
There is evidence that alcohol abuse accelerates the progression of liver fibrosis and affects the survival of patients with chronic hepatitis C. The mechanism by which alcohol worsens hepatitis C virus-related liver disease has not been fully clarified, but enhanced viral replication, increased oxidative stress, cytotoxicity and impairment of immune response could play a relevant role.
Alcohol abuse also seems to reduce both sensitivity to interferon and adherence to treatment.
It sounds reasonable to presume that the mechanisms enhancing liver damage in patients affected by hepatitis B are similar to those involved in hepatitis C virus infection.
However, more studies are warranted to improve our knowledge about the interaction between alcohol intake and hepatitis B virus infection.
In conclusion alcohol abuse is associated with an accelerated progression of liver injury, leading to an earlier development of cirrhosis, higher incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma, and higher mortality.
Abstinence from alcohol could reverse some of these deleterious effects.
Research report; Gitto S, Micco L, Conti F, Andreone P, Bernardi M. Alcohol and viral hepatitis: a mini-review. Dig Liver Dis. 2009 Jan;41(1):67-70. Epub 2008 Jul 3.