Infectious hepatitis, liver cancer and alcoholic liver diseases (ADL) are major causes of morbidity and mortality. Fatty liver, the most common form of ALD, is reversible with abstinence. More serious ALD includes alcoholic hepatitis, characterized by persistent inflammation of the liver, and cirrhosis, characterized by progressive scarring of liver tissue. Either condition can be fatal; treatment options are limited.
Chronic excessive alcohol use is the single most important cause of illness and death from liver disease (alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis) in the USA. Approximately 10 to 35 percent of heavy drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis, and 10 to 20 percent develop cirrhosis. In the USA, cirrhosis is the seventh leading cause of death among young and middle-age adults. Nearly half of all instances of liver cirrhosis stem from alcohol abuse. Approximately 10,000 to 24,000 deaths from cirrhosis may be attributable to alcohol consumption each year.