Hepatitis C Research Group, Institute for Biomedical Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK.
Summary: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an enveloped, positive-strand RNA virus of the family Flaviviridae that primarily infects hepatocytes, causing acute and chronic liver disease. HCV is also associated with a variety of extrahepatic symptoms including central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities, cognitive dysfunction, fatigue and depression. These symptoms do not correlate with the severity of liver disease and are independent of hepatic encephalopathy. HCV RNA has been associated with CNS tissue, and reports of viral sequence diversity between brain and liver tissue suggest independent viral evolution in the CNS and liver. This review will explore the data supporting HCV infection of the CNS and how this fits into our current understanding of HCV pathogenesis.