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The University of Southampton

Professor Nick Sheron MD, FRCP

Professor and Head of Population Hepatology Research Group

Professor Nick Sheron's photo

Professor Nick Sheron is Professor and Head of Population Hepatology Research Group within Medicine at the University of Southampton.

Alcohol-related liver disease
Death and liver disease in the UK have increased around ten-fold over the last thirty years and are still increasing. Alcoholic liver disease is the underlying diagnosis in around 85-90% of cases and has a major contribution to the total mortality. Alcoholic liver disease tends to present late, with a severe illness and a high mortality. Around 25% of patients die before they get the chance to modify their drinking behaviour. If we are to be successful in reducing liver mortality in the UK then it is necessary to concentrate on measures which will reduce patients developing liver disease in the first place. By in large these measures involve reducing total alcohol consumption in the population or screening and detecting alcoholic liver disease at an early stage.

Research interests

Active research projects 2013

Detection of liver disease in the community
We currently have two NIHR funded programmes of work investigating the prevalence of liver disease in the community in heavy drinkers using non-invasive screening algorithms that we have developed in Southampton over the last five years. The study uses a non-invasive ‘Traffic Light’ test that we developed in Southampton. The methodology of early detection in the community that we have piloted forms a central part of the new National Liver Strategy, currently in draft form.

LOCATE study to improve the detection and management of liver disease in primary care.
This study funded with a £500,000 grant from the British Liver Trust will examine the application of our early diagnosis models in primary care.

Patterns of drinking and the development of alcoholic liver disease
We have previously shown that only around one third of our patients with alcohol-related cirrhosis have severe alcohol dependency and many of these patients are heavy social drinkers. As such, it is likely that different types of intervention are likely to be successful in the dependent and non-dependent group. Ongoing work is examining the evolution of drinking patterns from early adulthood, aiming to identify factors which predispose patients to the development of alcohol-related liver disease.

Fatty liver disease
Co-investigator in an NIHR programme grant (£3.7million) investigating the use of high-dose fish oils in the treatment of fatty liver disease.

Student alcohol use
Studies over the last three years have examined risks associated with alcohol use by students in Southampton. Data from these studies is now being fed back into both the Safer Students Forum and the Southampton Tackling Alcohol Partnership, with the aim of introducing strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm in the student population in Southampton. The most recent study in 2010 documented large increases in levels of pre-loading – drinking to intoxication on cheap supermarket alcohol before leaving for a night out. The study will be repeated in 2014.

Cardiac cirrhosis and congenital heart disease
Clinical studies in a cohort of patients who have undergone the Glen shunt or Fontan procedure for the treatment of single ventricle congenital heart disease have shown that development of cardiac cirrhosis is increasingly problematic in the survival of these patients in middle age. Ongoing studies were aimed to uncover the underlying pathogenesis of cirrhosis in these individuals with the aim of improving treatment.

Alcohol Policy and cultural change
Research into differences in drinking patterns between the UK and European Union countries has resulted in a number of publications illustrating that the understanding of the relationship between overall alcohol use, alcohol affordability and alcohol-related harm is an essential component of the development of alcohol policy in the UK. This policy-based research feeds into my campaigning and political activity in the area of alcohol policy.

Political and National Advisory work
I am involved with a number of expert bodies including:

Alcohol Health Alliance UK an umbrella body bringing together 27 different organisations including Royal Colleges, NGOs and charities with the aim of lobbying for evidence-based policies to reduce alcohol-related harm in the UK.

EU Alcohol Forum established by the European Commission in order to take forward the EU Alcohol Strategy, and the monitoring committee for the evaluation of the EU Strategy in 2012.

British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG) and British and European Societies for the Study of Liver Disease (BASL and EASL) - Alcohol lead and member of BSG Public Affairs Committee, EASL Public Affairs Committee.

Royal College of Physicians Representative on European Alcohol Policies

European Public Health Alliance Scientific Advisor on Alcohol Policy

Professor Nick Sheron
CES Division Faculty of Medicine Mailpoint 811 Level E South Block
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