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Troubled Teens Show High Hepatitis C Exposure

Targeted interventions are needed for liver injury in adolescents

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Research on juvenile male legal offenders in Australia revealed findings that could be used in diagnosing early liver disease in adolescents, according to study findings published in the December issue of Hepatology.

David Van der Poorten, of the University of Sydney at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, Australia, and colleagues analyzed data from a health assessment of 682 offenders, aged 12 to 19, of whom 439 gave blood. The researchers' goals included establishing a new definition for the upper limit of normal (ULN) for alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and learning more about hepatitis C infection in this group.

Using the subjects with the lowest risk of liver disease, the researchers calculated the ULN for ALT as 28 IU/L. Factors that were strongly associated with elevated ALT included positivity for hepatitis C antibody (odds ratio 14.6), and overweight and obesity (odds ratio 6.9). Roughly 3 percent of the subjects were positive for hepatitis C antibody, and the most significant risk factor for this finding was injection drug use.

"Because age has a significant impact on ALT levels following an inverted U-pattern, different ranges are required for adolescents compared with adults. Thus, our new definition of the ULN for liver tests allowed a more robust analysis of the factors responsible for elevated enzymes. Looking to the future, this definition will permit greater sensitivity in diagnosing early liver injury in adolescent male populations and in implementing appropriate intervention," the authors write.

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