Liver Shorts July 2020

KA Strauss et al. Hepatology 2020; 71: 1923-39. Crigler-Najjar Syndrome Type 1: Pathophysiology, Natural History, and Therapeutic Frontier. This chart review  provides long-term data on phototherapy for  CN1 (n=28) over 30 years, bilirubin metabolism, and results from 17 who underwent liver transplantation at a median age of 16 years.  Background: “In 1952, John Crigler and Victor Najjar described 7 infants from 3 families who developed intractable nonhemolytic jaundice within the first week of life.”  Disorder is due to deficiency of uridine 5′-diphosphate glucuronyltransferase (UGT1A1, OMIM 218800). The report’s Table 1 provides management guidelines. 12 (43%) of patients developed cholelithiasis (pigmented stones) which exacerbated hyperbilirubinemia and resulted in cholecystectomy.

H Dang et al. Hepatology 2020; 71: 1910-22.  This multinational consortium retrospective study reviewed 1676 patients with HCV-related HCC.  They found that in patients who achieved a sustained virological response (SVR) after direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapy had a significantly higher 5-year survival: 88% vs 66%, P<0.001; after regression analysis, SVR was independently associated with a 63% lower risk of 5-year all-cause mortality.  My take (borrowed from authors) Patients with HCV and HCC who are eligible for HCC therapy should also be considered for DAA therapy.

M Noureddin et al. Hepatology 2020; 71: 1940-52.  This study, a nested case-control analysis, examined a subset from a large prospective cohort of >215,000 adults in Hawaii and California for diet associations with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD); the subset consisted of 2974 patients with NAFLD and 29,474 matched controls.  Key findings: Red meat, processed read meat, poultry and cholesterol consumption were positively associated with NAFLD while dietary fiber was inversely associated with risk. My take: While sugar/fructose intake has been a dietary concern for NALFD, this study indicates that decreasing meat/cholesterol consumption and increasing fiber consumption would be beneficial to reduce risk of NALFD and advanced liver disease.

Comprehensive 2018 AASLD Guidance for Chronic Hepatitis B

NA Terrault et al. Hepatology 2018; 67: 1560-99. Here’s the full link: Update on Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Chronic Hepatitis B: AASLD 2018 Hepatitis B Guidance

Some of the key points:

Table 4 (pg 1565): provides a refresher on interpretation of serology

Table 5 (pg 1567): Children and Adults Who Are HBsAg Positive:

  • Can participate in all activities, including contact sports
  • Should not be excluded from daycare or school participation and should not be isolated from other children
  • Can share food and utensils and kiss others

Figure 1 (pg 1571) Treatment algorithms.

  • For both HBsAg-positive/HBeAg-positive and HBsAg-positive/HBeAg-negative patients, treatment is recommended if ALT ≥2 x ULN.
  • For both groups, treatment is NOT recommended for those with ALT ≤ULN and low HBV DNA levels (<20,000 IU/mL for HBeAg-positive and <2,000 IU/mL for HBeAg-negative).
  • In those who do not fall into these categories, ongoing monitoring is recommended

Figure 1 from AASLD Guidance Link

Guidance Statements for HCC Screening in HBsAg‐Positive Persons

  • All HBsAg‐positive patients and high risk adults (see page 1574) with cirrhosis should be screened with US examination with or without AFP every 6 months.
  • There are insufficient data to identify high‐risk groups for HCC in children. However, it is reasonable to screen HBsAg‐positive children and adolescents with advanced fibrosis (F3) or cirrhosis and those with a first‐degree family member with HCC using US examination with or without AFP every 6 months.


  • In adults: The AASLD recommends peg‐IFN, entecavir, or tenofovir (TDF) as preferred initial therapy for adults with immune‐active CHB
  • In children: The AASLD suggests antiviral therapy in HBeAg‐positive children (ages 2 to <18 years) with both elevated ALT and measurable HBV‐DNA levels, with the goal of achieving sustained HBeAg seroconversion.

Perinatal transmission:

  • The AASLD suggests antiviral therapy to reduce the risk of perinatal transmission of HBV in HBsAg‐positive pregnant women with an HBV‐DNA level >200,000 IU/mL..The only antivirals studied in pregnant women are lamivudine, telbivudine, and TDF. Of these 3 options, TDF is preferred to minimize the risk of emergence of viral resistance during treatment. Interim studies show high efficacy of TDF in preventing mother‐to‐child transmission.
  • The infants of all HBsAg‐positive women should receive immunoprophylaxis (HBV vaccination with or without hepatitis B immunoglobulin, per World Heath Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations)

Treatment & prevention of HBV reactivation in patients receiving immunosuppressive or cytotoxic drugs (section 6 pages 1577-9)

  • HBsAg and anti‐HBc (total or immunoglobulin G) testing should be performed in all persons before initiation of any immunosuppressive, cytotoxic, or immunomodulatory therapy.
  • HBsAg‐positive, anti‐HBc–positive patients should initiate anti‐HBV prophylaxis before immunosuppressive or cytotoxic therapy.
  • HBsAg‐negative, anti‐HBc–positive patients could be carefully monitored with ALT, HBV DNA, and HBsAg with the intent for on‐demand therapy, except for patients receiving anti‐CD20 antibody therapy (e.g., rituximab) or undergoing stem cell transplantation, for whom anti‐HBV prophylaxis is recommended.

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

More on Anti-TNF Drug Levels (part 2) and a Few Mentions

Another study (K Papamichael et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2016; 14: 543-9) examined therapeutic drug levels with regard to infliximab induction and mucosal healing.

In this retrospective study with 101 patients with ulcerative colitis, 54 (53.4%) achieved mucosal healing between weeks 10-14, defined by a Mayo endoscopic score of 0 or 1.  97% of patients were treated with 5 mg/kg infusions.

Key finding:

  • Infliximab threshold concentrations of 28.3 mcg/mL at week 2, 15 mcg/mL at week 6, and 2.1 mcg/mL at week 14 were associated with mucosal healing.

My take: While this study provides information on what type of levels to expect at 2, 6, and 14 weeks, what is really important is figuring out which patients need higher doses of infusions from the start.

Unrelated, briefly noted:

R Yadlapati et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2016; 14: 535-42. In this prospective blinded cohort study of 59 subjects, oropharyngeal pH testing (Restech Dx-pH) and salivary pepsin analysis was not able to distinguish between healthy volunteers and subjects with a combination of laryngeal and reflux symptoms.

M Moris et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2016; 14: 585-93. This study reports increasing findings of small pancreatic cysts with more (and better) MRI imaging.

Y Kawamura et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2016; 14: 597-605. This retrospective study shows, among almost 10,000 patients with fatty liver disease, that alcohol consumption of ≥40 g/day is an independent risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma.


Don’t Give Up Too Soon (with Hepatitis B treatment)

A recent study shows that ongoing treatment with entecavir is usually effective in “primary nonresponders” (Hepatology 2014; 59: 1303-10).

This study retrospectively reviewed a study with 1254 treatment-naive patients who received entecavir (ETV) 0.5 mg/day for >6 months. Only 16 (1.28%) patients were considered “primary nonresponders.”  The latter was defined as a <2 log drop in HBV DNA after 6 months of therapy by AASLD or <1 log drop after 3 months by EASL.

Key findings:

  • The probability of achieving a virologic response (HBV DNA <15 IU/mL) was 95.8% at 54 months among these “nonresponders”
  • Primary nonresponders did not have ETV resistance; however, 13 (1%) of the entire cohort developed ETV resistance.
  • In this treatment cohort, the 5-year cumulative risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) was 2.5%.  Previous studies have shown that HBV suppression lowers the risk of HCC.

Take-home message: 

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.


How strong is the case for HCC screening?

Not that strong.  The AASLD guidelines for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) have faced additional scrutiny and an editorial reviews the basis for HCC screening recommendations (Hepatology  2012; 56: 793-96).

According to the authors, there have been two randomized controlled trials of HCC screening in China.  One that did not demonstrate benefits of HCC screening relied on resection as the treatment for early-stage HCC.  However, a large proportion of those with screen-detected HCC did not undergo resection.

The second trial demonstrated benefit but had several issues.  First, the statistical analysis has been criticized as faulty due to the cluster randomization method while analyzing with an individual patient basis method.  In addition, most North American cases of HCC are related to HCV rather than HBV; thus, the results may not be applicable.

The editorial counters that there are additional lines of evidence that HCC screening is effective for HCV and that an adequate RCT in this country will never be feasible.  Specifically, they suggest that an adequate study would need 10,000 subjects.  This would be further complicated by informed consent; an Australian study has shown that 90% of patients would refuse randomization and prefer to undergo screening.

The editorial points out that advancement in treatments have lowered the likelihood of morbidity in patients identified through screening as well.

As part of their conclusion, the authors quote Sir Austen Bradford Hill who conducted the first RCT in humans: All scientific work is incomplete…liable to be upset by advancing knowledge.  That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or to postpone the action it appears to demand at a given time.”

Related blog entry:

Looking for trouble | gutsandgrowth

Additional references:

BRIC, PFIC, and nasobiliary drainage

Case reports, when effective, help clinicians understand meaningful differences in disease presentation; in addition, they highlight practical treatment approaches.  An excellent example of one such case report is the following:

  • Zellos A et al.  JPGN 2012; 55: 88-90

These authors present a case with unique features that highlight some of the clinical problems with benign recurrent intrahepatic cholestasis (BRIC) and progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis (PFIC).  BRIC1 and PFIC1 are associated with mutations in ATP8B1; BRIC2 and PFIC2 are associated with mutations in ABCB11.  The primary difference between BRIC and PFIC is the phenotypic expression.  In BRIC, individuals have episodes of cholestasis; in PFIC, progressive chronic liver disease develops in the first months of life.  PFIC2/ABCB11 mutations cause defective bile salt export pump (BSEP) at the bile-canniculus membrane.

Both ATP8B1 and ABCB11 intrahepatic cholestasis conditions present in a similar fashion with low GGT values.  In this case report, a 5-year-old presented with jaundice, acholic stools and dark urine.  His laboratory values revealed an ALT of 60 U/L, direct bilirubin of 7.6 mg/dL and gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) of 10 U/L.  Initially, after exclusion of other liver conditions (eg. NL MRCP, copper studies, α-1 antitrypsin, autoimmune serology, infectious etiologies), the authors suspected ‘a clinicopathologic intergrade between BRIC and PFIC’ likely due to ATP8B1 as there was BSEP expression on liver biopsy immunostaining.  After sequencing did not demonstrate any ATP8B1 mutations, the authors identified two heterozygote mutations in ABCB11.

From a treatment standpoint, once nasobiliary drainage (NBD) was in place, the patient quickly improved.  This occurred after >6 weeks of failure with urosdeoxycholic acid/conservative measures.  As a precaution, the authors cultured the bile once a week and instituted antibiotic treatment when positive cultures were identified.

One other point alluded to by the authors is that the natural history of BRIC2 is poorly described.  Whether this disorder is truly ‘benign’ as the name suggests is unclear.  In patients with similar mutations who develop PFIC2, there is a high risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

Intrahepatic Cholestasis Genes/Disorder (Clin Liver Dis 2006; 10: 27-53.)

Gene: Disorder (protein)
ATP8B1: PFIC1 -Byler’s (FIC1), BRIC, GFC -Greenland Familial
CLDN1: NISCH (Claudin 1) -neonatal sclerosing cholangitis/icthyosis
VPS33B: ARC syndrome (Vascular protein sorting 33) -arthrogryposis-renal dysfn-cholestasis, low GGT
AKR1D1: BAS: Bile acid synthetic defect: neonatal cholestasis with giant cell hepatitis
HSD3B7: BAS (C27-3β-HSD)
TJP2: (ZO-2) FHC: Familial hypercholanemia (tight junction protein)
EPHX1: FHC (epoxide hydrolase)
JAG1: Alagille (JAG1) JAG1 is transmembrane cell-surface protein important in regulating cell fate during embryogenesis
PKHD1: ARPKD (fibrocystin -important in ciliary function and tubulogenesis)
PRKCSH: ADPLD (hepatocystin)
ABCC2: Dubin-Johnson syndrome (MRP2)
CIRH1A: NAIC -N Amer Indian childhood cirrhosis (Cirhin)

Additional references for BRIC/low GGT PFIC:

  • -JPGN 2010; 51: 494.  Use of biliary diversion –helpful in 18 PFIC2 cases with long-term f/u.
  • -Liver Transplantation 2010; 16: 856.  6 patients developed recurrent low gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase cholestasis, that mimics BSEP disease, following transplantation. All had documented genetic defects in ABCB11 that were predicted to lead to a congenital absence of BSEP protein.
  • -NEJM 2009; 361: 1359. Recurrence of BSEP deficiency p OLT due to antibodies against BSEP
  • -Hepatology 2010; 51: 1645. n=62 children & clinical course.
  • -Gastroenterol 2008; 134: 1203. Severe BSEP –82 different mutations in 109 families. (n=132 patients)
  • -JPGN 2008; 46: 241. Excellent review. FIC1 caused by mutations in ATP8B1, PFIC 2 caused by mutations in ABCB11 which encodes BSEP – bile salt export pump. Increased risk of HCC in PFIC2 especially.
  • -J Pediatr 2007; 150: 556.  Increase risk of HCC in PFIC2.
  • -Hepatology 2006; 44: 478-486. Cases of pediatric HCC in PFIC-2
  • -Gastroenterol 2006; 130: 908. Review of canalicular transport defects.
  • -Hepatology 2005; 42: 222. summary of cholestasis workshop
  • -Gastroenterol 2004; 126: 322. Review of bile salt transporters.
  • -JPGN 2002; 34: 7A. FTT, diarrhea persist p biliary diversion or transplant.


  • -Gastroenterol 2003; 124: 1037-42. MDR3 mutations causing cholelithiasis, cholestasis, biliary cirrhosis, & pregnancy cholestasis.
  • -Gastroenterol 2001; 120: 1448-1458. n=31 cases. MDR3 mutations. ABCB4 gene
  • -Gastroenterol 2001; 120: 1459-67. Gallbladder stones & chronic cholestasis in 6 MDR3+ pts. Avg age of presentation: 2.9yrs. Avg age of Tx: 7.5yrs.  Sx/S : high ggt cholestasis, pruritus, intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy in heterozygotes (& c contraception)
  • -Hepatology 1996; 23: 904-8. MDR3 gene assoc c PFIC

Fish intake may reduce liver cancer

In a large Japanese adult population (n=90,296), the consumption of n-3 fatty acids and fish was associated with reduced risk for hepatocellular cancer (HCC) (Gastroenterology 2012; 142: 1468-75 and editorial 1411-12).

HCC ranks fifth among cancer incidence and third for mortality worldwide.  Many factors contributing to HCC cannot be modified.  The main factors subject to modification include diet and avoidance of viral hepatitis.  Dietary studies are methodologically-challenging due to difficulties assessing diet and due to the complex nature of diets.  Without going into any significant detail, this study shows an inverse relationship between fish intake and incidence of HCC.  The hazard ratio for the highest quintiles compared to the lowest were 0.56-0.64 depending on the specific dietary agent.  The specific n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) examined included eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic adic (DPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

HCC Established Risk Factors:

Age, males, family history of HCC, HCV/HBV infection, alcohol, cirrhosis, tobacco, aflatoxin exposure, Hereditary Hemochromatosis, α-1 antitrypsin deficiency, primary biliary cirrhosis

Likely Risk Factors:

Diabetes, obesity, NAFLD

Possible Risk Factors:

Red meat, saturated fat, fructose, oral contraceptives

Possible Protective Factors:

Coffee, micronutrients (vitamin D, vitamin E, selenium), white meat (fish, poultry), and n-3 fatty acids

Related blog posts:

Looking for trouble

Live longer -drink more coffee

Drink Up!

More about coffee

Another life-threatening complication of HCV

Epidemiological studies have shown a causal relationship between B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (B-NHL) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) (Hepatology 2012; 55: 634-641).  This is not simply an association but a cause and effect.

The cited reference reviews several aspects of this relationship including the mechanisms of lymphoproliferation, the epidemiology, the clinical manifestations, the treatment, the prognosis, and preventive measures.

  • With regard to epidemiology, the odds ratios are between 2.4 and 5.2.  This is a small risk compared to hepatocellular carcinoma.
  • Management: Lymphoma may regress with HCV treatment, indicating a role for HCV in pathogenesis.   HCV treatment may prevent the occurrence of B-NHLs as well.  For aggressive lymphomas, patients require systemic treatment with rituximab-based regimens (1st line treatment).
B-NHLs are not nearly as important as cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma in terms of mortality and morbidity in patients with HCV.  It is nevertheless quite significant considering the number of infected persons worldwide.
Other related posts on HCV:

Additional references:

  • -Gastroenterology 2011; 140: 1182. Increasing HCC/Cirrhosis in HCV pts.
  • -Clinical Gastro & Hep 2008; 6: 451. HCV associated with increased risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. OR was 1.8 among n=4784 cases of NHL/n=6269 controls
  • -Clinical Gastro & Hep 2008; 6: 459. Overweight & obesity increase risk of HCC. n=1431 chronic HCV patients; 36% developed HCC over 10 year f/u. OR 1.9 of HCC if overweight & 3.1 OR of HCC if obese.
  • -NEJM 2002; 347: 89-95. regression of splenic lymphoma w HCV treatment.

Looking for trouble

Although cirrhosis is an infrequent problem in pediatric gastroenterology, there are several important management aspects.  One of these is surveillance for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).  In this month’s Hepatology, Poustchi et al describe the “feasibility of a randomized control trial for liver cancer screening” (Hepatology 2012; 54: 1998 & editorial 1898).  Not surprisingly, the authors conclude that such a trial is not possible with informed consent.  As such, the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness may not be determined.  Although the consensus is in favor of screening, there are potential disadvantages like discovering non-cancer nodules leading towards unnecessary invasive investigations.

The AASLD considers screening for HCC worthwhile in patients with cirrhosis.  When HCC is discovered early, treatment can be effective.  For example, if HCC meets Milan criteria–either 1 tumor <5cm or 2-3 < 3 cm each– OLT has 91% 1 yr survival.

Most U.S. physicians (74%) report that they screen all of their patients with cirrhosis; however,  population-based studies of Medicare patients show only 6.6% receive regular surveillance (Hepatology 2010; 52: 132-41) & only 12% of veterans with HCV-infected cirrhosis (Ann Intern Med 2011; 154: 85-93).  Better ways of consolidating screening can bridge this gap & perhaps catch cases of HCC amenable to treatment.  This may be another area where an EMR can help with patient/doctor reminders.

Current practice recommendations for cirrhotic patients: Ultrasound every 6 months (with or without AFP).  This recommendation is supported by the AASLD, EASL, and APASL.  The efficacy of HCC surveillance is reviewed further in the January “Education Practice” article: Clin Gastro & Hepatatol 2012: 10: 16-21.

Additional references:

  • Gastroenterology 2011; 141: 1240. Risk of HCC from HBV related to ALT and HBV DNA levels.
  • NEJM 2011; 365: 1118. Review. For cirrhotics/advanced liver dz, recs U/S & AFP q6-12months.
  • Hepatology 2010; 53: 1020. updated guidelines from AASLD. Suggests U/S as screen q6months.
  • J Pediatr 2011; 159: 617. BA associated with HCC.
  • Hepatology 2010; 51: 1972. NASH cirrhosis pts develop HCC. 12.8% over .32 yrs (compared with 20.3 % of pts with HCV cirrhosis). Alcohol & age were independent variables that increased risk.
  • Gastroenterology 2009; 137: 110, editorial page 26. AFP has at best 66% sensitivity for HCC.
  • Gastroenterology 2009; 136: 138, 39(ed). HCC occuring c HCV ~1%/yr in HALT-C study. prolonged Rx -not helpful. n=1005. Best surveillance is US. Only 60% of pts c HCC received surveillance. Hepatolgy 2005; 42 : 1208.
  • Gastroenterologyo 2008; 135: 111. DM & obesity associated with increase risk of HCC in patients with HBV/HCV.
  • Gastroenterology 2008; 134: 1612. Increasing LTx for HCC affects others on Tx list.
  • Gastroenterology 2007; 132: 2557. review
  • Clin Gastro & Hep 2006; 4: 252 Review.
  • Hepatology 2005; 42: 1208. AASLD guidelines for management.
  • Gastroenterology 2004 (November) 127; supplement 1:S1–S323. Review of HCC. S108: screen with alpha-fetoprotein AND U/S every 6-12 months in individuals with cirrhosis or advanced disease (not needed in individuals with mild disease).
  • Clinical Gastro & Hep 2003; 1: 10-18. Review.
  • Gastroenterology 2004; 126: 1005. HCC survival improved when detected as part of surveillance.