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Identification of a Latitude Gradient in the Prevalence of Primary Biliary Cholangitis
Clin Transl Gastroenterol. 2021 May 18;12(5):e00357. doi: 10.14309/ctg.0000000000000357.
Janine French1, Steve Simpson-Yap23, Ingrid van der Mei3, Justin Ng1, Peter Angus1, Paul J Gow1
1Department of Gastroenterology, Austin Hospital, Heidelberg, Australia.
2Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Carlton, Australia.
3Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
Introduction: The prevalence of primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) reported in different countries varies significantly and seems to have a latitudinal gradient with the highest prevalence reported in higher latitudes, as has been observed with other autoimmune diseases. This study aimed to determine whether there is a latitudinal gradient of PBC prevalence in Australia using 2 methods of case ascertainment.
Methods: We investigated the latitudinal variation of PBC prevalence across the states and territories of Australia (latitudinal range 18.0°-42.7°S) using pathology-based (private pathology antimitochondrial antibody results and PBC-specific prescription databases (prescriptions for ursodeoxycholic acid, the only publicly subsidized treatment for this disease).
Results: PBC prevalence was significantly positively associated with latitude, and the postcodes in the highest quintile of latitude (encompassing the south coastal areas of the Australian mainland and Tasmania; latitude range -37.75° to -42.72°) had a prevalence estimate that was 1.78 times higher using the pathology-based prevalence estimation than those in the lowest quintile (encompassing tropical and southern Queensland; latitude range -18.02° to -27.59°). Comparing prevalence estimates between states/territories, the result was 2.53 and 2.21 times higher in Tasmania compared with Queensland when using the pathology-based and prescription-based methods, respectively.
Discussion: Using 2 different case-ascertainment methods, we have demonstrated that prevalence estimates of PBC vary significantly with latitude in Australia. Further studies are needed to determine whether factors such as variations in ultraviolet radiation exposure and/or vitamin D levels are responsible for this observation and to investigate the latitudinal prevalence of PBC in other populations.