Background/aims: A nationwide survey of autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) was carried out in Japan.
Methods: Four hundred and ninety-six patients were enrolled by questionnaires sent to 101 hospitals with hepatology specialists.
Results: The clinical features of Japanese AIH were as follows: most patients were middle-aged women; serum autoantibodies, especially antinuclear antibody, were frequently positive, serum IgG level was high, and HLA-DR4 was the major HLA allotype. Liver-kidney microsomal type 1 antibody was positive in nine of 79 patients tested. Eight of these antibody positive patients were also positive for antinuclear antibody and five for anti-smooth muscle antibody. Ninety-two percent of the patients showed piecemeal necrosis and 60% bridging necrosis; plasma cell infiltration in the portal areas was observed in 50% of the patients. Only 12.3% were diagnosed as having liver cirrhosis. A favorable effect of corticosteroid, normalization of serum transaminases, was observed in 89% of 317 patients, who were treated with an initial dose of over 30 mg/day. Sixty-two patients were positive for hepatitis C virus (HCV) markers. In these patients, however, only one patient was liver-kidney microsomal type 1 antibody positive. Corticosteroid was effective in 30 (81%) of 37 HCV-marker-positive patients treated with this agent. Thus the efficacy of corticosteroid did not differ from that in AIH patients without HCV infection (90%). Similarly, interferon treatment was used in 20 patients, all of whom were positive for HCV-RNA, and resulted in 50% efficacy as determined by normalization of the serum transaminase level 6 months after treatment. The International Diagnostic Scoring System for the diagnosis of AIH worked well in these patients, except for HCV-infected individuals, that is, approximately 10% of the total of AIH patients.