Genetic factors may increase liver damage risk in chronic hepatitis B patients
Genetic variations may increase the risk of severe liver damage in Caucasians with chronic hepatitis B infection, a new study has found.
Approximately one-third of the world's population has come into contact with hepatitis B, with 350-400 million people developing a chronic infection.
If left untreated, chronic infections can lead to liver injury, liver cancer, and liver failure, with more than one million deaths attributed to cirrhosis and cancer each year.
Researchers from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research found that Caucasian patients with a variation in their STAT4 gene were more likely to experience inflammation and severe liver fibrosis.
Author of the study, Dr. Rasha El Sharkawy said,"The findings add to the growing body of evidence that demonstrates a link between genes and the progression of hepatitis B."
"The progression of liver injury in hepatitis B can vary significantly among patients, which indicates that genetic factors may play a role," she added.
The STAT4 gene is part of the body's immune response against viruses and regulates tissue inflammation, fibrosis, and anti-viral activity.
El Sharkawy added, "We found that patients with the risk genetic variation had lower expression of STAT4 in their liver and immune cells, reducing their immune response against hepatitis B and their production of interferon gamma, a protein responsible for moderating fibrosis."
This may, at least partially explain why patients with the variation experience poorer liver health, Dr. El Sharkawy explained.
The full findings are present in the journal- Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics.