Smriti Sharma Vasudeva : Chandigarh , Sun Mar 11 2012, 04:45 hrs
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
While Hepatitis B and C have acquired almost an epidemic status in our country, Auto Immune Hepatitis is largely overlooked in the list of liver diseases. Known to mostly affect women, AIH incidentally does not have any specific symptoms, making it a potential threat for Indian population.
World renowned couple Dr Giorgina Mieli-Vergani, emeritus professor of paediatric hepatology, King’s College Hospital, London and her husband Dr Diego Vergani, emeritus professor of liver immunopathology, King’s College Hospital London, said, “AIH is a progressive inflammatory liver disorder affecting mainly females, characterised by the presence of auto antibodies. As a result, our body’s infection fighting mechanism cells start behaving just the opposite. By the time, it is diagnosed, much of the damage to the liver is already done.”
If left untreated, AIH generally progresses rapidly to cirrhosis and liver failure. The peak incidence of the disease is before puberty and 75 per cent of the patients are girls.
“In fact researches have established that patients of Hepatitis C are at greater risk of developing AIH and since India has a significant number of patients of Hepatitis C virus, therefore it assumes larger significance”, said Dr Giorgina.
Top identify AIH patients in this part of the country, already a team of experts at the department of Immunopathology, PGIMER is on board a project with the doctor couple. “The only hindrance is about transportation of samples. We are working out on a modalities for the smooth continuation of the research to find out the pathogenesis of Indian patients with this condition,” said Dr Diego.
Already, the two are working on a research to find a possible cure for AIH wherein regulatory cells from the body of the patient suffering from AIH are taken out and developed in a controlled environment to outnumber the count of antibodies responsible for AIH.
The duo has even received funding of one million pounds from the British government agency to carry out the research.” It may take a few years and already a PhD student working with us on the research is undergoing a year’s training at Boston for the purpose,” added the duo.