A study of antimitochondrial antibodies in a random population in Estonia

Am J Gastroenterol. 1997 Jan;92(1):124-6.


Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is an autoimmune liver disease characterized by the spontaneous destruction of the small intrahepatic bile ducts. The hallmark serologic feature of PBC is the presence of high-titer antimitochondrial antibodies (AMA). Both the incidence and prevalence of PBC varies geographically; epidemiological data may provide valuable insight regarding the pathogenic mechanisms and etiology of disease. Thus far, the majority of studies on the occurrence of PBC and AMAs have been derived from autopsy, mortality figures, or hospital admission records. The numbers reported reflect only those patients with clinical disease. To address this issue, an adult population sample representing all age groups in the village of Karksi-Nuia in southern Estonia was selected for a study of AMA incidence. This village has unique features that make it ideal for such a study. First, the village is remote and a substantial number of families have lived in the area for generations. There is also a limited influx of new families into the village, therefore providing a limited genetic repertoire. In this unselected adult population, we examined AMA incidence by both immunoblot and ELISA, using native and recombinant antigens. Of the 1461 people studied, 13 (0.89%) were AMA positive. A similar frequency (0.96%) was found among 104 persons from a neighboring village, who subsequently joined the study. Our study suggests that the presence of AMA in Estonia is in agreement with the reported incidence of less than 1% AMA in a mixed hospital population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Autoantibodies / analysis*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Estonia
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitochondria / immunology*
  • Population Surveillance


  • Autoantibodies