New Way to Diagnosis of Wilson’s Disease: ATP7B Peptides

CJ Collins, F Yi et al. Gastroenterol 2021; 160: 2367-2382. Full text: Direct Measurement of ATP7B Peptides Is Highly Effective in the Diagnosis of Wilson Disease

There continues to be challenges in the diagnosis of Wilson’s disease (WD). Genetic testing, per the authors and Vasrome (varsome.com), have found more than 649 pathogenic mutations and another 692 mutations that are VUS. Definitive diagnosis with genetic testing requires 2 known pathogenic variants. Other features, including Kayser-Fleischer rings and ceruloplasmin, have limited sensitivity and/or specificity.

Methods: Two hundred and sixty-four samples from biorepositories at 3 international and 2 domestic academic centers and 150 normal controls were used.

Key findings:

  • Two ATP7B peptides were found to have a sensitivity of 91.2%, specificity of 98.1%, positive predictive value of 98.0%, and a negative predictive value of 91.5%.
  • In patients with normal ceruloplasmin concentrations (>20 mg/dL), 14 of 16 (87.5%) were ATP7B-deficient. In patients without clear genetic results, 94% were ATP7B-deficient.

Discussion: As with other tests, ATPB7 peptide testing has limitations. Most patients with WD have pathogenic mutations that often result in protein misfolding, absence of decay of messenger RNA and enhanced degradation; hence, low ATPB7 levels; however, disease-causing mutations that affect protein activity but not protein concentration will generate false-negative results.

My take: “ATP7B peptide analysis identified WD patients in a large majority of cases and reduced ambiguities resulting from genetic analysis and Cp (ceruloplasmin) levels. This noninvasive assay can serve as an adjunctive test for the diagnosis of WD and is expected to fundamentally advance the use of proteomic technology for a rapid screening tool.

Related blog posts:

Sacroiliitis, NAFLD, IMIDs -Concurring Problems with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

I Levine et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2021; 809-815. Prevalence, Predictors, and Disease Activity of Sacroiliitis Among Patients with Crohn’s Disease

Key findings in this cross-sectional retrospective study (n=258, median age 30 yrs):

  • Overall, 17% of patients had MRI evidence of sacroiliitis, of whom 73% demonstrated bone marrow edema.
  • Female gender, back pain, and later age of CD diagnosis were associated with sacroiliitis (P = 0.05, P < 0.001, P = 0.04, respectively).
  • Disease activity (clinical, endoscopic, and radiographic), disease location and CD therapy were not associated with sacroiliitis on MRE.
  • More than two-thirds with MRE evidence of sacroiliitis were never seen by a rheumatologist.

A Lin et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2021; 947-955. Prevalence of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Key finding:

  • Data pooled from 27 studies showed the prevalence of NAFLD among IBD patients was 32% (substantial heterogeneity); this is “statistically significantly higher than the prevalence of NAFLD in the general population (25.2%; P < 0.001)”

M Attauabi et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2021; 927-939. Systematic Review with Meta-analysis: The Impact of Co-occurring Immune-mediated Inflammatory Diseases on the Disease Course of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

A total of 93 studies were identified, comprising 16,064 IBD patients with co-occurring IMIDs and 3,451,414 IBD patients without IMIDs. IMIDs included the following:

  • Unspecified autoimmune disease
  • Diabetes type 1
  • Asthma
  • Grave disease
  • Spondyloarthropathy
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Iridocyclitis
  • Uveitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica
  • Psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis
  • Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis
  • Celiac disease
  • Pyoderma gangrenosum
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Giant cell arteritis
  • Primary biliary cholangitis
  • Hashimoto thyroiditis
  • Episcleritis
  • Sjogren syndrome

Key findings: Patients with IBD and co-occurring IMIDs were at increased risk of having extensive colitis or pancolitis (risk ratio, 1.38; 95% Cl, 1.25–1.52; < 0.01, I2 = 86%) and receiving IBD-related surgeries (risk ratio, 1.17; 95% Cl, 1.01–1.36; P = 0.03; I2 = 85%) compared with patients without IMIDs

Image below from Bahia Honda State Park (FL)

Acute Viral Hepatitis in Spain

J Llaneras et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021; 19: 1030-37. Etiologies and Features of Acute Viral Hepatitis in Spain

This prospective study of adults collected data from an emergency room of an academic hospital in Barcelona (2014-2018).

Key findings:

  • The most common etiologies of acute hepatitis were HBV infection (28%), HEV infection (18%), HCV infection (17%), and HAV infection (14%)
  • Approximately one-third of acute hepatitis cases were in immigrants
  • The main risk factors of the cohort were sexual risk contact and intravenous drug use; 79% of cases of HAV had sexual risk behavior
  • Chronic infections developed in 5/28 patients (18%) with acute HBV infection and 7/17 patients (41%) with acute HCV infection 
The graphical abstract breaks down features for the most common etiologies:
HBV (blue) 28%, HEV (purple-pink) 18%, HCV (maroon) 17%, and HAV (light green) 14%.

Good Results with Liver Transplantation Using Hepatitis C Livers

The advent of highly-effective therapy for hepatitis C has led to the use of hepatitis C-infected livers for organ transplantation.

H Bohorquez et al. Liver Transplantation 2021; 27: 548-557. Liver Transplantation Using Hepatitis C Virus–Viremic Donors Into Hepatitis C Virus–Aviremic Recipients as Standard of Care

Methods: The authors would utilize livers from donors with hepatitis C if they had a “normal gross appearance or, in cases in which a liver biopsy was indicated, acceptable histology less than grade 2 inflammation and less than stage 2 fibrosis (Batts-Ludwig classification)”

Key findings:

  • 292 patients, 61 rHCV− received DNAT+ livers (study group), and 231 rHCV− received DNAT− (aviremic donors [nuclear acid test‐negative donors]) (2018-2019)
  • 1‐year post‐LT patient and graft survival were similar between groups
  • In the study group, 4 patients died, and 1 patient required retransplantation within the first year post‐LT (all unrelated to HCV)
  • 51 patients completed DAA treatment, all achieving sustained virologic response for 12 or more weeks (SVR‐12) (one required re-treatment)

Given the limited organ availability, using livers from donors with hepatitis C has the potential to reduce waitlist times and waitlist mortality.

My take: Liver transplantation with hepatitis C has become bidirectional; livers are being received by those with liver failure due to hepatitis C and failed livers are being replaced by donors infected with hepatitis C.

Related blog posts:

Increased Cancers with Fatty Liver Disease

Z Wang et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021; 19: 788-796. Associations Between Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Cancers in a Large Cohort in China

It is well-recognized that obesity/overweight increases the risk of cancer (related blog post: Cancer due to Overweight/Obesity). Wang et al provide data regarding cancer risk due specifically to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) from a large prospective adult cohort (n=54,187). Key findings:

  • Prevalence of NAFLD, based on ultrasonography, was 32.3%.
  • NAFLD was associated with increased risk of all cancers (hazard ratio [HR], 1.22; 95% CI, 1.10–1.36; P = .0001), thyroid cancer (HR, 2.79; 95% CI, 1.25–6.21; P = .01), and lung cancer (HR, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.02–1.49; P = .03).
  • Increased risk for colorectal cancer (HR, 1.96) and lung cancer (HR, 1.38) was demonstrated only in smokers.  An association between NAFLD and kidney cancer (HR, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.03–2.40) was only observed in men without diabetes.
  • Risk of hepatocellular carcinoma was increased only in those with elevated ALT values of 80 U/L or more (HR 8.08)

My take: This study shows that NAFLD increases the risk of cancer; much of this risk may be due to obesity/metabolic syndrome and associated chronic inflammation. Overall, cardiovascular disease in patients with NAFLD represents a higher risk for morbidity and mortality.

Related blog posts:

Peonies

Cool Perfusion –Better Liver Transplant Outcomes

R van Rijn et al. NEJM 2021; 384: 1391-1401. Hypothermic Machine Perfusion in Liver Transplantation — A Randomized Trial

Background: Nonanastomotic biliary strictures are a major complication after liver transplantation, and ischemia–reperfusion injury is a key mechanism in their development. Although static cold preservation provides some protection against injury, preclinical studies have shown that a short period of hypothermic oxygenated machine perfusion restores mitochondrial function and reduces damage.

Methods: In this multicenter, controlled trial, we randomly assigned patients who were undergoing transplantation of a liver obtained from a donor after circulatory death to receive that liver either after hypothermic oxygenated machine perfusion (machine-perfusion group) or after conventional static cold storage alone (control group). A total of 160 patients were enrolled, of whom 78 received a machine-perfused liver and 78 received a liver after static cold storage only (4 patients did not receive a liver in this trial).

Key points:

  • Nonanastomotic biliary strictures occurred in 6% of the patients in the machine-perfusion group and in 18% of those in the control group, risk ratio, 0.36
  •  Postreperfusion syndrome occurred in 12% of the recipients of a machine-perfused liver and in 27% of those in the control group; risk ratio, 0.43
  • Early allograft dysfunction occurred in 26% of the machine-perfused livers, as compared with 40% of control livers; risk ratio, 0.61

My take: Hypothermic oxygenated machine perfusion led to lower risk of nonanastomotic biliary strictures

Related blog posts:

Time to Adjust the Knowledge Doubling Curve in Hepatology

In his book, Critical path, Buckminster Fuller (Fuller 1981), American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor, and futurist, created the ‘knowledge doubling curve’. He noticed that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century and by the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years (Knowledge is not everything, Paul Chamberlain). Now the doubling of knowledge, in the age of the internet and social media, has become even shorter, perhaps less than a year.

I was thinking about this knowledge doubling curve after reading two practice guidances in a recent issue of Hepatology:

The first guidance is mainly for reference as pediatric gastroenterologists do not focus on reproductive health. The authors do provide guidance on contraceptive options which is an important topic for adolescents. The main guidance is disease-specific information for pregnancy in the setting of underlying liver conditions including liver transplantation, cirrhosis, viral hepatitis, autoimmune hepatitis, PSC, PBC, Wilson’s disease, hepatitis C, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, HELLP, acute fatty liver disease of pregnancy, Budd-Chiari, FNH, hepatocellular adenoma, and others. The guidance also provides recommendations for how to evaluate abnormal liver tests in pregnancy and reviews liver medications during pregnancy (Table 4).

The second guidance reviews the following:

  • An overview of the current understanding of bleeding and thrombosis in cirrhosis.
  • An evidence‐based justification for bleeding risk assessment in patients with cirrhosis before invasive procedures, including current concepts in preprocedural testing and laboratory analysis and their role in predicting bleeding complications.
  • An outline of established and recently identified risk factors for venous thrombosis in the portal and hepatic venous systems in both patients with and without cirrhosis along with thrombophilia testing recommendations.
  • A review of the strengths and weaknesses of the various classification systems for portal vein thrombosis and a proposal for standard nomenclature regarding characterization of portal vein thrombosis location, time course, and progression.

Useful points:

  • In patients with cirrhosis, there are “complex hemostatic changes that are not adequately captured by traditional laboratory measures of hemostasis, such as PT, aPTT, and platelet count.”
  • “Because of conflicting data in the literature, there is no data-driven specific INR or platelet cut-off in which procedural bleeding risk is reliable increased.” In some studies, the authors conclude that “that the low platelet count may have been merely a reflection of advanced portal hypertension and not a causative risk factor for bleeding.”
  • For Platelets in the setting of cirrhosis: “Given the low risk of bleeding of many common procedures, potential risks of platelet transfusion, lack of evidence that elevating the platelet count reduces bleeding risk, and ability to use effective interventions, including transfusion and hemostasis if bleeding occurs, it is reasonable to perform both low‐ and high‐risk procedures without prophylactically correcting the platelet count...An individualized approach to patients with severe thrombocytopenia before procedures is recommended because of the lack of definitive evidence for safety and efficacy of interventions intended to increase platelet counts in patients with cirrhosis.” The authors note in Table 4, that the AASLD does not have a specific threshold for platelets, whereas other societies have used values of >30 or >50.
  • For INR in setting of cirrhosis: “The INR should not be used to gauge procedural bleeding risk in patients with cirrhosis who are not taking vitamin K antagonists (VKAs)…Measures aimed at reducing the INR are not recommended before procedures in patients with cirrhosis who are not taking VKAs…FFP transfusion before procedures is associated with risks and no proven benefits.”
  • The guidance lists a step‐by‐step treatment and surveillance algorithm for portal vein thrombosis in patients with cirrhosis (and without cirrhosis).
  • The guidance provides updated diagnostic, treatment, and management recommendations for sinusoidal obstruction syndrome (formerly known as hepatic-veno-occlusive disease), hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia, and hepatic vein thrombosis (aka Budd-Chiari).
  • Classification and management recommendations for idiopathic noncirrhotic portal hypertension and the portosinusoidal vascular disorders.
  • Surveillance and evaluation recommendations for hepatic and splenic artery aneurysms.
  • A review of the management issues in vascular liver disorders specific to children and guidance on early intervention in extrahepatic portal vein obstruction in children.

My take: In essence, these two articles are condensed textbooks. The first on Liver Disease, Pregnancy and Reproductive Health. And the second on Bleeding in the Setting of Chronic Liver Disease and Vascular Liver Diseases.

Potential or Problematic New Treatment for Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis

A recent study describes the efficacy and safety of Semaglutide, a glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist for nonalcholic steatohepatitis (NASH): PN Newsome et al. NEJM 2021; 384: 1113-1124. A Placebo-Controlled Trial of Subcutaneous Semaglutide in Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis

Methods: This was a a 72-week, double-blind phase 2 trial involving patients with biopsy-confirmed NASH and liver fibrosis of stage F1, F2, or F3. Patients were randomly assigned, in a 3:3:3:1:1:1 ratio, to receive once-daily subcutaneous semaglutide at a dose of 0.1, 0.2, or 0.4 mg or corresponding placebo.

Key findings:

  • The percentage of patients in whom NASH resolution was achieved with no worsening of fibrosis was 40% in the 0.1-mg group, 36% in the 0.2-mg group, 59% in the 0.4-mg group, and 17% in the placebo group (P<0.001 for semaglutide 0.4 mg vs. placebo).
  • An improvement in fibrosis stage occurred in 43% of the patients in the 0.4-mg group and in 33% of the patients in the placebo group (P=0.48).
  • The mean percent weight loss was 13% in the 0.4-mg group and 1% in the placebo group. 
  • Safety: Malignant neoplasms were reported in 3 patients who received semaglutide (1%) and in no patients who received placebo. Overall, neoplasms (benign, malignant, or unspecified) were reported in 15% of the patients in the semaglutide groups and in 8% in the placebo group

Clearly this study indicates that there may be safety concerns with semaglutide. In addition to the malignant neoplasms, there were 8 individuals with colonic polyps in the treatment groups and 7 with renal cysts in the treatment group. However, the authors note that in a recent meta-analysis with 55,921 patients, GLP-1 agonists were not associated with an increased risk of malignant neoplasms (Diabetes Obes Metab 2020; 22: 699-704).

Related article: JPH Wilding et al. NEJM 2021; 384: 989-1002. Once-Weekly Semaglutide in Adults with Overweight or Obesity Key finding: The mean change in body weight from baseline to week 68 was −14.9% in the semaglutide group as compared with −2.4% with placebo. This study indicates potential for GLP-1 Agonist class for pharmacologic treatment of obesity.

My take: The improvement in NASH with semaglutide is encouraging and perhaps improvement in fibrosis will occur with more time. Yet, more time is also needed to determine if this agent is truly safe in this population. In patients receiving other GLP analogues, vigilance for adverse events is needed as well.

Trends in Liver Diseases: Autoimmune Liver Diseases and Fatty Liver

1st Study: M Lamba et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021; 19: 573-579. Full text: Trends in Incidence of Autoimmune Liver Diseases and Increasing Incidence of Autoimmune Hepatitis

This was a population-based prospective study from Canterbury, New Zealand

Key findings:

  • Overall incidence rates were 1.93 per 100,000 for AIH (95% CI, 1.58–2.34), 0.51 per 100,000 for PBC (95% CI, 0.33–0.73), and 0.92 per 100,000 for PSC (95% CI, 0.68–1.21). 
  •  The incidence rate of AIH was significantly higher during the period of 2014–2016 (2.39 per 100,000; 95% CI, 1.76–3.23) than during the period of 2008–2010 (1.37 per 100,000; 95% CI, 0.91– 2.06) (P < .05). Incidences of PBC and PSC did not change significantly.
  • In 2016, prevalence values were 27.4 per 100,000 for AIH (95% CI, 23.58–32.0), 9.33 per 100,000 for PBC (95% CI, 7.13–12.05), and 13.17 per 100,000 for PSC (95% CI, 10.56–16.42).

My take: This study indicates that autoimmune hepatitis has been increasing in incidence.

Related blog posts:

2ndStudy: ZM Younossi et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021; 19: 580-589. Full text: Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis Is the Most Rapidly Increasing Indication for Liver Transplantation in the United States

This study was an analysis of data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (2002 through 2019).

Key findings:

  • In 2002, the most common etiologies of non-acute liver failure on the liver transplant waitlist (in patients without HCC)
  • In 2019, among patients without HCC, NASH was the second leading indication for liver transplantation (28% of patients), after ALD (38% of patients). were chronic HCV infection (37%) and ALD (16%), whereas only 5% had NASH
  • HCC accounted for 27,799 patients (16.5%) and was commonly due to chronic HCV throughout study period

My take: Demand for liver transplantation has NOT improved despite curative therapy for chronic hepatitis C. This is due to increased liver failure related to fatty liver disease and alcoholic liver disease.

Related blog posts:

Figure 1 Prevalence of the most common CLD etiologies in waitlisted liver transplant candidates without HCC. (A) Proportion of all non-HCC listings with known etiology; (B) the proportion relative to that seen in 2002.

AI for UC, Case of Eosinophilia in UC

K Gottlieb, J Requa et al. Gastroenterol 2021; 160: 710-719. Central Reading of Ulcerative Colitis Clinical Trial Videos Using Neural Networks Key finding: A deep learning algorithm can be trained to predict levels of UC severity from full-length endoscopy videos with excellent agreement with human central readers; endoscopic healing accuracy was 97% for UC endoscopic index of severity (UCEIS) and 95.5% for endoscopic Mayo score.

JS Herndon et al. Gastroenterol 2021; 160: 29-30. Full text: Marked Eosinophilia in a 27-Year-Old Woman With Recent Onset Ulcerative Colitis What is the reason for marked eosinophilia (wbc 40 with 46% eos) in a 27 yo with ulcerative colitis?

MRCP and liver biopsy images consistent with a diagnosis of Eosinophilic Cholangitis