Bad Fatty Liver Disease Can Get Worse Quickly

A recent study (AJ Sanyal et al. Hepatology 2019; 70: 1913-27) used prospectively collected data from two large randomized, placebo-controlled phase 2b studies of simtuzumab in patients with either bridging fibrosis (n=217) or compensated cirrhosis (n=258) due to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The age range of participants were 48-61 years with median ages of 55 years and 57 years for the two cohorts.  All patients had liver biopsies at screening and at weeks 48 and 96.

Key findings:

  • Progression to cirrhosis occurred in 22% (48/217) of patients with bridging fibrosis (F3) over a median of 29 months
  • Liver-related adverse clinical events (eg. ascites, variceal bleeding, encephalopathy, MELD score ≥15, liver transplantation or death) occurred in 19% (50/258) with compensated cirrhosis over a median of 29 months. Only 1 patient in this cohort died.
  • Higher  baseline hepatic fibrosis or serum markers of fibrosis were associated with disease progression in patients with F3 disease

My take: Among those with advanced liver disease, this study indicates that disease progression/deterioration is rather rapid in about 20%.

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China Is Catching and Passing U.S. with NAFLD Plus Updates

F Zhou et al. Hepatology 2019; 70: 1119-33. The authors performed a systematic review (n=392 studies, more than 2 million subjects) and found that NAFLD in China increased from 25.4% in 2008-2010 to 32.3% in 2015-2018. The pooled prevalence across all studies was 29.2%. The associated editorial speculates that some of this increase is related to diet changes as well as PNPLA3 gene.  This allele “is more common among East Asians than Caucasians”  It is lower in African Americans in the U.S. which helps explain why this population is at reduced risk.

JB Schwimmer, JS Johnson et al Gastroenterol 2019; 157: 1109-22.  In this prospective study with 87 children (89% Hispanic), the authors associated fecal microbiomes with NAFLD and NASH.  Both NAFLD and NASH were associated with intestinal dysbiosis with lower diversity and high abundance of Prevotella copri. Full text link: Microbiome Signatures Associated With Steatohepatitis and Moderate to Severe Fibrosis in Children With Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

S Pelusi et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 2310-9.  This study analyzed data from 1738 subjects (45% with severe obesity) who had undergone liver biopsy.  132 of 389 (33.9%) with significant fibrosis did NOT have nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and 39 patients (10%) had no inflammation. NASH diagnosis required steatosis (≥5% of hepatocytes), hepatocellular ballooning, and lobular inflammation. Factors associated with significant fibrosis in the absence of NASH, included fasting hyperglycemia, severe steatosis, mild inflammation or ballooning, and PNPLA3 1148M variant.  My take: this study shows that the finding of NASH on liver biopsy is NOT required for the development of severe liver disease related to NAFLD.

D Linden et al. Molecular Metabolism 2019; 22: 49-61. This study, summarized in Gastroenterol 2019; 157: 1156-9) showed that PNPLA3 silencing with antisense oligonucleotides ameliorates NASH in PNPLA3 1148M knock-in mice.  The summary notes that the mutated 1148 M PNPLA3 protein variant accumulates on lipid droplets altering clearance and affecting triglycerides and phospholipid turnover.

Liver Briefs -September 2019

P Rosenthal et al. Hepatology 2019; 69: 2326-37.  This study examined the efficacy and safety of combined entecavir and Peginterferon for immune-tolerant chronic hepatitis B-infected children (n=60). 48 weeks after completing treatment (week 96), 2 children (3%) achieved the primary outcome of undetectable HBeAg with HBV DNA levels <1000 IU/mL.  These two children were also HBsAg negative/anti-HBs positive. In the other children (55 completed study), the ALT and HBV DNA levels were similar to baseline.  37 children experienced adverse events.  My take: Entecavir/peginterferon is not very effective in immune-tolerant children infected with chronic HBV.

DL Thomas. NEJM 2019; 380: 2041-50. This article reviews the pathway to the global elimination of chronic hepatitis.  Currently, it is estimated that hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) kill more than 1 million persons each year. “In fact, by 2040, deaths from chronic hepatitis are projected to exceed the combined mortality associated with HIV infection, tuberculosis, and malaria.”

JR Dillman et al. J Pediatr 2019; 212: 60-5. This study with 41 patients and 13 patients with biliary atresia prospectively assessed ultrasound shear wave elastography (SWE). The authors found that SWE with a cut-off value of >1.84 m/s had 92% sensitivity and 79% specificity.  Also, in their cohort, GGT >320 had a sensitivity of 100% and specificity of 78%.

Z Younossi et al. Hepatology 2019; 69: 2672-82.  This review provides a global perspective of NAFLD.  25% of the world’s population is currently thought to have NAFLD with highest prevalence in South America at 30.45% and lowest in Africa at 13.5%. This article usggest North America to have 24.1% prevalence rate.

NAFLD Outcomes After Bariatric Surgery

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis (Y Lee, et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 1040-60) included 32 cohort studies with 3093 liver biopsy specimens from patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Key findings:

  • Bariatric surgery resulted in a biopsy-confirmed resolution of steatosis in 66%, inflammation in 50%, ballooning degeneration in 76%, and fibrosis in 40%.
  • Bariatric surgery resulted in worsening features of NAFLD in 12%.
  • The authors note that Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass (RYGB) “showed greater reduction of liver side effects and higher: resolution of NAFLD.”
  • Jejejnoileal bypass (JIB) and biliopancreatic diversion (BPD) “both have been associated with higher liver function morbidity.”
  • The overall GRADE quality of evidence was considered very low.

My take: Though better studies are needed, the majority of patients’ livers appear to benefit from bariatric surgery.

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How Often Do Children with Obesity Have a Fatty Liver?

According to a recent study (EL Yu et al. J Pediatr 2019; 207: 64-70), about one-third of boys and one-fourth of girls with obesity have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

This study from San Diego with 408 children aged 9-17 years (mean 13.2 years) with obesity evaluated for NAFLD with laboratories (to exclude other etiologies) and with liver MRI proton density fat fraction (PDFF), with ≥5% considered the threshold for NAFLD.

Key findings:

  • Prevalence of NAFLD was 26% in this population, with 29.4% in males and 22.6% in females
  • The optimal cut offs of ALT for detecting NAFLD in this study were ≥30 U/L for females and ≥42 U/L for males. These are much lower than NASPGHAN guidelines which proposed ≥80 U/L or twice the ULN as thresholds for further investigation.  (The NASPGHAN recommendations are likely to have higher specificity in identifying children at greater risk for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).)

Limitations:

  • 77% of this cohort were hispanic, thus prevalence may vary significantly in other populations.
  • MRI-PDFF -the exact cut off is unclear.  The authors note that if 3.5% were chosen, the NAFLD prevalence jumped to 49.3% (according to Table II –though the discussion stated 53.2%)

My take: Understanding the likelihood of NAFLD in children at risk is a helpful first step.  This study points to the growing use of non-invasive diagnosis with MRI.

On a related topic, briefly noted: “Obesity in Adolescents and Youth: The Case for and against Bariatric Surgery” (A Khattab, MA Sperling. J Pediatr 2019; 207: 18-22). In this review, the authors refer frequently to endocrine society guidelines (J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2017; 102: 709-57).    These guidelines generally recommend bariatric surgery only under specific conditions (eg. completion of Tanner 4 or 5 along with a BMI of 40 kg/m-squared or BMI of 35 with significant extreme comorbidities after failure of lifestyle modifications & without untreated psychiatric illness).  This review predicts increasing use of bariatric surgery in adolescents “as more data on long-term outcomes in larger cohorts become known.”

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Liver Shorts Feb 2019

ZM Younossi et al. Hepatology 2019; 69: 564-72. This study, using Markov models for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), estimated that there are 6.65 million adults with NASH in the U.S. and that lifetime costs will be $.222.6 billion.

Y Chang et al. Hepatology 2019; 69: 64-75.  This study with 58,927 Koreans with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), found that nonheavy alcohol consumption was “significantly and independently associated with worsening of noninvasive markers of fibrosis, indicating that even moderate alcohol consumption might be harmful.”

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KA Forde et al. Hepatology 2019; 69: 270-81.  This study examined screening for hepatopulmonary syndrome (HPS) in patients (n=363) evaluated for liver transplantation (LT). It found that pulse oximetry had low sensitivity for detecting HPS. Overall, 21% of the cohort had HPS. “We found that pulse oximetry essentially performed no better than chance (i.e.. a ‘coin flip’) in the discrimination of patients with HPS from all-comers.” 18% of patients with an SpO2 of 96% or higher had HPS. Based on their findings, the authors recommend that routine screening of LT candidates include ABG and contrast-enhanced echocardiograpy.

From Joshua Tree National Park..Gorgeous views from Ryan Mountain