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Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2012 Nov;5(6):421-37. doi: 10.1177/1756283X12450251.

Management of patients with difficult autoimmune hepatitis.

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  • 1Centre for Liver Research & Birmingham NIHR Biomedical Research Liver Centre, School of Infection and Immunity, MRC Centre for Immune Regulation, Institute for Biomedical Research, Medical School, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.


Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is characterized by a T-cell rich infiltrate associated with lobular and interface hepatitis, hypergammaglobulinemia and production of autoantibodies. Genetic risk is linked to the HLA particularly DRB1*0301 and DRB1*0401 alleles in North American and European Caucasian populations. It has recently been suggested that functional deficiencies in CD4(+)CD25(+)CD127(low)FOXP3(+) regulatory T cells contribute to the breakdown of immune tolerance that results in AIH. Most patients respond to immunosuppressive therapy with corticosteroids and can be maintained in remission by low-dose corticosteroid treatment and/or azathioprine. For those who progress to end-stage disease liver transplantation is an effective treatment although it is associated with recurrence. In the future it is likely that biological therapies will allow more targeted therapy designed to switch the balance to immune regulation and thereby restore immune homeostasis. Although treatment for many cases is relatively straightforward and successful problems are encountered in those who fail to respond to standard treatment, are unable to tolerate it or relapse. In such cases alternative therapies should be considered. In addition treatment is complicated in some patients by comorbidity and special care is required during and after pregnancy. We will discuss the current and future therapeutic options for patients with difficult to treat AIH.


autoimmune hepatitis; immunosuppression; regulatory T cells

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