According to a story from Newswise, The University of Adelaide in Australia received a $1.19 million grant in order to spearhead an international research project. The project’s aim is to determine the most suitable treatment for intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, a rare liver condition.
Cholestasis is a condition in which bile is unable to flow from the liver to the duodenum. Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) specifically refers to a variant that affects pregnant women. The primary symptom is itching on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. This itching can be severe, leading to possible skin damage from incessant scratching. Constant itching and scratching can also lead to depression. Other symptoms include dark urine, light stools, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and jaundice. The cause is unclear but may be linked to genetic factors and hormonal changes. The condition is associated with higher rates of premature labor and stillbirth. Treatment options for ICP are limited. To learn more about this condition, click here.
The new project will hopefully lead to a much more thorough understanding of the origins of ICP. It is known that the condition runs in families, but in-depth study of the genetic factors has yet to occur. There has also been little research about the possible long term effects on children. The primary study undertaken by the project will compare two potential treatments for ICP. Ursodeoxycholic acid is the standard treatment for ICP currently, and it has been shown to relieve itching and improve liver function and outcomes for the mother and child. The study will compare this treatment with rifampicin. This drug has been used to treat similar types of itching but has never been formally tested as a therapy for ICP.
Researchers hope the rifampicin will prove to either be an effective treatment on its own or even in combination with ursodeoxycholic acid. From there, the project would examine the effect of rifampcin or the drug combination on pregnancy conditions. Specifically, researchers want to see if the treatments can reduce the rate of premature labor and stillbirth, the most severe complications associated with ICP.