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Autoimmune hepatitis: From mechanisms to therapy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalRevista Clinica Espanola
Early online date6 May 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 May 2016

King's Authors


Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is a progressive inflammatory hepatopathy and an important cause of end-stage liver disease. Its aetiology remains unknown, though both genetic and environmental factors are involved in its development. The major mechanism of autoimmune liver damage involves immune reactions against host liver antigens. Numerical and functional defects of regulatory T-cells play a permissive role enabling autoimmune liver injury to occur and persist. The most typical features of AIH are female preponderance, hypergammaglobulinaemia, seropositivity for circulating autoantibodies and a picture of interface hepatitis on histology. Two types of AIH are distinguished according to serological profile: AIH type 1 patients are positive for anti-nuclear and/or anti-smooth muscle antibodies, whereas AIH type 2 patients are defined by the positivity for anti-liver kidney microsomal type 1 antibody and/or for anti-liver cytosol type 1 antibody. Clinical manifestations are variable, and AIH onset is often ill-defined, frequently mimicking acute hepatitis; its course may be fluctuating. AIH responds to immunosuppressive treatment in the majority of cases. Steroids with or without azathioprine should be instituted promptly upon diagnosis. Remission is achieved in some 80% of patients. For the remaining 20% of patients, alternative immunosuppressive agents such as mycophenolate mofetil and calcineurin inhibitors are an option. Liver transplantation should be considered for those patients who progress to cirrhosis and develop complications of end-stage liver disease, as well as for those presenting with acute liver failure; outcomes are excellent, although the disease may recur in the allograft.

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