British Liver Trust welcomes results of study into viral treatment of alcoholic hepatitis

Posted on: 14th November 2019

The British Liver Trust has welcomed the results of a study published today, which looks at how phage therapy –using viruses to destroy bacteria – could help treat liver disease caused by alcohol.

Pamela Healy, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust, says: “This is really exciting new research which offers potential hope in the future for people with alcohol-related liver disease. Although liver disease has many different causes, alcohol related liver disease still accounts for 60% of all cases. Around 7,700 people die from alcohol related liver disease each year.”

A "novel avenue of research"

The study, published in the journal Nature, explains how a team of scientists from King’s College London and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine isolated four different phages that specifically target cytolysin-producing E. faecalis – a bacteria found in higher numbers in the guts of people with alcoholic hepatitis.

According to the researchers, their “precise cocktail of phages” was able to get rid of the bacteria in mice and eradicate alcohol-induced liver disease.

Professor Debbie Shawcross, professor of hepatology and chronic liver failure at King’s College London and one of the study authors, said: “This novel avenue of research now needs to be expanded to test the safety and effectiveness of phage therapy in human clinical trials in patients with alcohol-related disease.

“It is also likely that other forms of chronic liver disease associated with changes in the gut microbiome will also benefit from this novel approach, such as fatty liver disease.”

Alcohol and the liver

If you have a fatty liver, and don’t stop or reduce your intake of alcohol, you are at a high risk of developing alcohol-related hepatitis. Alcohol-related hepatitis can occur at an early stage or after many years of harmful drinking.

You can find out more about how alcohol affects the liver. If you’re concerned about the impact of drinking alcohol on your health, take our liver screener or find out how we can support you.