Amsterdam, The Netherlands,Thursday 25 April 2013: Probiotics could emerge as a treatment plan to manage hepatic encephalopathy (HE) therapy after a new study announced at the International Liver Congress™ 2013 found they significantly reduced development of the notoriously difficult-to-treat disease.
The study analysed the efficacy of probiotics in preventing the development of HE in 160 cirrhotic patients over a period of approximately nine months and found significant improvements in reducing patients' arterial ammonia levels after three months of treatment with probiotics.
Ammonia, produced by gut bacteria, is thought to be one of the main mediators of cerebral dysfunction in HE. Probiotics work by enriching the gut flora with a non-urease producing microorganisms, which decrease ammonia production. Probiotics are live microorganisms (mostly bacteria) that produce a health benefit on the host when administered in adequate amounts.
Twice as many patients taking a placebo developed overt HE (the study's primary endpoint) compared to patients taking probiotics in the form of a capsule.
EASL's Treasurer, Prof. Mauro Bernardi welcomed the findings and said they would provide a positive impact for cirrhotic patients at risk of developing HE for whom the prognosis is typically very poor.
Prof. Bernardi said: "Hepatic encephalopathy is an insidious disease that's caused by an accumulation of toxins in the blood that are normally removed by the liver. Treatment normally involves the use of antibiotics or laxatives to suppress the production of toxic substances in the intestine but there is still a great deal of room for improvement so it will be exciting to see the results of further studies to determine if clinicians have a new form of treatment on the cards."
Hepatic encephalopathy is a spectrum of neuropsychiatric abnormalities including personality changes, intellectual impairment and reduced levels of consciousness in patients with liver failure, after exclusion of other known brain disease.
Disclaimer: the data referenced in this release is based on the submitted abstract. More recent data may be presented at the International Liver Congress™ 2013.
Notes to Editors
EASL is the leading European scientific society involved in promoting research and education in hepatology. EASL attracts the foremost hepatology experts and has an impressive track record in promoting research in liver disease, supporting wider education and promoting changes in European liver policy.
EASL's main focus on education and research is delivered through numerous events and initiatives, including:
- The International Liver CongressTM which is the main scientific and professional event in hepatology worldwide
- Meetings including Monothematic and Special conferences, Post Graduate courses and other endorsed meetings that take place throughout the year
- Clinical and Basic Schools of Hepatology, a series of events covering different aspects in the field of hepatology
- Journal of Hepatology published monthly
- Participation in a number of policy initiatives at European levelM.
About The International Liver CongressTM 2013
The International Liver Congress™ 2013, the 48th annual meeting of the European Association for the study of the Liver, is being held at the RAI Convention Centre in Amsterdam from April 24 – 28, 2013.
The congress annually attracts in excess of 9,000 clinicians and scientists from around the world and provides an opportunity to hear the latest research, perspectives and treatments of liver disease from principal experts in the field.
1 M.K Lunia, AN OPEN LABEL RANDOMISED CONTROLLED TRIAL OF PROBIOTICS FOR PRIMARY PROPHYLAXIS OF HEPATIC ENCEPHALOPATHY IN PATIENTS WITH CIRRHOSIS. Presented at the International Liver CongressTM 2013
2 A. Agrawal, Secondary Prophylaxis of Hepatic Encephalopathy in Cirrhosis, An Open-Label, Randomized Controlled Trial of Lactulose, Probiotics, and No Therapy. Available http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/767674_3 [Accessed 9/4/13]
3 World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organizationof the United Nations. Health and Nutritional Properties of Probiotics in Food including Powder Milk with Live Lactic Acid Bacteria. Ava http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/fs_management/en/probiotics.pdf [Accessed 9/4/13]