Autoimmune Hepatitis Associated with Anti-Actin Antibodies in Children and Adolescents

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The clinical, biochemical, morphological, and evolutive features of autoimmune hepatitis associated with serum smooth muscle antibodies of anti-actin specificity were retrospectively analyzed in 31 children and adolescents. Cirrhosis was present at diagnosis in all but six patients, including nine of the 12 diagnosed within 6 months from the onset. In 15 children, one or more associated diseases of an immune-mediated mechanism were present, including chronic arthritis, sclerosing cholangitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cutaneous vasculitis. All patients were treated with prednisone and azathioprine with normalization or improvement of liver function tests: 28 children are currently alive after a mean follow-up of 4 years, 10 months. Treatment was inter rupted in four patients only. Two patients died of liver failure in spite of immunosuppressive therapy before the era of liver transplantation. In spite of prolonged therapy, five other patients ultimately required liver transplantation during adolescence or early adulthood. These results (a) further define a group of autoimmune hepatitis in children characterized by the presence of serum anti-actin antibodies; (b) indicate that immunosuppressive therapy improves liver function, although in most cases it must be continued for a long period to maintain remission; and (c) suggest that progressive liver failure may occur in early adulthood and may require liver transplantation.

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