The activities of the lysosomal enzymes acid and neutral protease, N-acetylglucosaminidase, and acid phosphatase were measured in the serum of patients with fulminant hepatic failure. Acid protease (cathepsin D) activity was increased about tenfold in patients who died and nearly fourfold in those who survived fulminant hepatic failure after paracetamol overdose, whereas activities were increased equally in patients with fulminant hepatic failure due to viral hepatitis whether or not they survived. A correlation was found between serum acid protease activity and prothrombin time, and the increase in cathepsin D activity was sustained over several days compared with aspartate aminotransferase, which showed a sharp early peak and then a fall. Circulating lysosomal proteases can damage other organs, and measurement of their activity may therefore be of added value in assessing prognosis in this condition.
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