Monday, April 02, 2012

Consultant blames drinking, obesity and virus for dramatic rise in liver disease

By Claire Lomax, Telegraph & Argus, Bradford, England

Bradford faces an ‘explosion’ of people suffering from liver disease in the next ten years, a doctor has warned.

Heavy drinking, obesity and hepatitis B and C are behind a dramatic rise in the number of people in the district seeking treatment for liver disease.

Between 2001 and 2009 deaths from liver disease rose by 25 per cent and the numbers of patients waiting for a liver transplant are increasing rapidly.

There are currently eight adult patients in the Bradford district waiting for a new liver – up from three in July 2010.

Dr Sulleman Moreea, a consultant gastroenterologist at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said while people were aware of the dangers of alcohol, more people needed to be aware of other causes of liver disease.

“There is a silent disease out there – hepatitis B and C,” he said. “When I started work in Bradford in 2004 I had 150 patients with hepatitis C on my books. Today I have 780 patients.

“If you don’t treat these patients they will develop cirrhosis of the liver. Every two months we are seeing a middle aged person dying from hepatitis C and we will be seeing more and more. We have people desperate for a new liver – some who have waited for three years.

“In the next ten years expect an explosion of patients with liver disease from hepatitis C.”

Thousands of people could already be infected with hepatitis and unaware they are carrying the virus, he believes.

The virus is 100 times more infectious than HIV, with no known cure, however, it can be controlled by drugs. Without treatment, it leads to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.

The blood-borne viral infection is spread through sharing contaminated needles, non-sterilised equipment for tattooing, acupuncture or body piercing, from an infected mother to her baby at birth or through a blood transfusion in a country where blood is not screened.

To counteract the spread of this disease Dr Moreea set up a hepatitis C treatment programme in Bradford in 2005, which is now taking more and more referrals. A new drug has also recently been approved by NICE for use in the NHS which is effective in treating in hepatitis C patients, although it will cost between £18,000 and £22,000 per patient.

And a dietician is working in Bradford specifically to help obese patients with fatty liver disease.

“This is what we need to be investing in to prevent people from dying,” said Dr Moreea. “There are around 110 liver transplants carried out in Leeds per year for the whole of the north of England, so disproportionately Bradford has a bit of a problem.”

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