Local News

Researchers Studying Who's At Risk For Liver Problems

Posted July 11, 2005 7:56 a.m. EDT

— Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill want to find out who is at-risk before potentially fatal liver problems start.

Allergies and airplane flights often lead to fluid build-up in Beth Hollister's ears. In January, it led to an ear infection. Her doctor prescribed a common antibiotic that she had taken before, with no problem. Then, five to seven days after taking her medication, she started having nausea.

In addition to flu-like symptoms, she noticed her skin turning yellow. Her liver was failing.

The liver actually filters your total blood volume about 100 times a day, so anything you consume, including natural products or medications, pass through the liver and can potentially damage it. There is no real treatment for a drug-induced liver injury.

"It's wait-and-see, which is very scary because you don't know if you're going to get better," Hollister said.

Hollister agreed to be part of a national study through UNC to help solve an old clinical mystery.

"So what we're doing is trying to identify people who've had this severe liver injury due to drugs so that we can study them and try to figure out why they are different. Why they had this problem," said Dr. Paul Watkins, director of clinical research at UNC.

The research may help to identify a genetic cause. Doctors could diagnose the problem more quickly and pharmaceutical companies could design safer drugs. Hollister did recover and hopes her experience will help others avoid the pain and anxiety she endured.

"It's so important for us, just as human beings, to give back into that research pool," she said.

For information about participating in the liver injury study, call the

Duke Coordinating Center


(866) 345-4638