An indefinite number of patients with acute or chronic liver disease will be enrolled in this study. Criteria for selection will be the following:
Age above 2 years, male or female.
Evidence of acute or chronic liver disease on evaluation by the outside referring physician.
Absence of other significant medical illnesses that might interfere with prolonged follow up evaluation.
Willingness to enter the study.
There are no specific reasons to exclude any patients from this protocol (exception below for plasmapheresis and lymphapheresis, and genetic analysis of serum samples) as it does not entail significant risk to the patient or excessive clinical burden to the Liver Diseases Branch. Patients who resolve their chronic liver disease, such as patients with chronic hepatitis B who become negative for HBsAg or patients with chronic hepatitis C who become negative for HCV RNA will continue to be followed despite lack of apparent disease or disability. This is to document that clearance of these hepatitis viruses is, indeed, associated with resolution of the liver disease and lack of long-term adverse effects. Because there are data suggesting that chronic HBsAg carriers who become HBsAg-negative and patients with chronic hepatitis C whose liver disease becomes inactive, can still develop long-term consequences of these diseases (especially hepatocellular carcinoma), following such patients is important.
Plasmapheresis and lymphapheresis: Patients will have to fulfill the criteria of the NIH Department of Transfusion Medicine regarding lymphapheresis donors. These include age (less that 65 years), weight (greater than 120 pounds), hematocrit (greater than 30 percent), blood pressure (less than 120 diastolic and greater than 90 systolic), and temperature (less than 37.5 degrees C). Because this is a research procedure to obtain reagents and assay materials, only patients who are active and relatively fit (i.e. not disabled from their liver disease) will be asked to undergo this procedure.
The only strict exclusion criterion will be active therapy with interferon. The basis for this exclusion was the findings from a retrospective analysis of a recent trial of recombinant human alpha interferon as therapy of chronic hepatitis B. In that study, the "response rate" or rate of clearance of hepatitis B virus with alpha interferon therapy was lower among patients who underwent lymphapheresis during therapy (48 percent) (p less than .01). Lymphapheresis performed before treatment did not seem to affect the outcome of interferon therapy. These findings were unexpected but have led us to avoid both plasmapheresis and lymphapheresis in patients receiving alpha interferon therapy. The reasons why lymphapheresis might interfere with a response to alpha interferon are to known, but probably relate to the importance of an intact, healthy immune system in the process of recovery from a chronic viral infection.
Fibroscan: Consecutive adult patients (ages 18 or older) with chronic liver disease who have had a liver biopsy performed within the previous 6 months or who are scheduled to undergo liver biopsy will be eligible for participation in this aspect of the study. Patients with liver biopsies that are inadequate for histological scoring or who have ascites will be excluded from this aspect of the study.
Genetic Analysis of Serum Samples: All adult subjects with a Hct of less than 30 and pediatric subjects with a Hct less than 26 will be excluded for phlebotomy that is necessary for isolation of DNA material from the blood cells. Inability to understand or sign informed consent will also exclude patients from this aspect of the study.