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Mayo Clin Proc. 2001 Dec;76(12):1237-52.

Current concepts in the diagnosis, pathogenesis, and treatment of autoimmune hepatitis.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Al Amiri Hospital, Kuwait.


Autoimmune hepatitis has a global distribution and affects all ages. Genetic factors strongly influence susceptibility, clinical expression, and treatment response. The diagnosis of autoimmune hepatitis has been codified by an international panel. An acute or fulminant presentation is recognized but not a cholestatic form. Subclassifications by predominant autoantibody profile have been proposed, but they lack etiologic and prognostic differences. Autoantibodies continue to be characterized to improve diagnostic specificity, predict outcome, and identify pertinent antigenic targets. Cytosolic enzymes are prime candidates as autoantigens. DRB1*0301 and DRB1*0401 are the susceptibility alleles in Caucasoid Northern Europeans and North Americans, and they also affect clinical expression and treatment outcome. Other autoimmune promoters affecting cytokine production and immunocyte activation may act in synergy with the susceptibility alleles to affect disease behavior. Cell-mediated and antibody-dependent forms of cytotoxicity are probably interactive pathogenic mechanisms, and novel site-specific therapies are feasible because these mechanisms are defined. Potent new immunosuppressive agents are emerging from the transplantation arena, but prednisone alone or in combination with azathioprine remains the mainstay of treatment. Corticosteroid therapy is effective but not ideal.

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