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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 10 (2003), Issue 2-4, Pages 127-131

Geographic Clusters of Primary Biliary Cirrhosis

1Hepatology Clinic, Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, Hadera, Israel
2Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology, University of California at Davis, School of Medicine, Davis, CA, USA
3Division of Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Surgery and Dentistry, San Paolo School of Medicine, University of Milan, Italy
4Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Camden, NJ, USA
5Division of Transplant Medicine, University of California at Davis, School of Medicine, Sacramento, CA, USA

Copyright © 2003 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Genetic and environmental factors have been widely suggested to contribute to the pathogenesis of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), an autoimmune disease of unknown etiology leading to destruction of small bile ducts. Interestingly, epidemiologic data indicate a variable prevalence of the disease in different geographical areas. The study of clusters of PBC may provide clues as to possible triggers in the induction of immunopathology. We report herein four such unique PBC clusters that suggest the presence of both genetic and environmental factors in the induction of PBC. The first cluster is represented by a family of ten siblings of Palestinian origin that have an extraordinary frequency of PBC (with 5/8 sisters having the disease). Second, we describe the cases of a husband and wife, both having PBC. A family in which PBC was diagnosed in two genetically unrelated individuals, who lived in the same household, represents the third cluster. Fourth, we report a high prevalence of PBC cases in a very small area in Alaska. Although these data are anedoctal, the study of a large number of such clusters may provide a tool to estimate the roles of genetics and environment in the induction of autoimmunity.