- Category: Hepatitis B
- Published on Friday, 27 July 2012 00:00
- Written by Liz Highleyman
Saturday, July 28, is World Hepatitis Day, an opportunity to raise awareness about life-threatening viral hepatitis. Over years or decades hepatitis B and C can progress to severe liver disease including cirrhosis and liver cancer, and viral hepatitis is a leading indication for liver transplants.
Hepatitis B virus is endemic in several regions of the world, with an estimated 100 million carriers in Southeast Asia alone. Several nucleoside/nucleotide analogs are available to treat chronic hepatitis B, but therapy does not always produce a cure. Fortunately, effective vaccines are available, leading to dramatic decreases in incidence.
Hepatitis C is also common worldwide and cannot yet be prevented with a vaccine. In May the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new recommendation that all "baby boomers" born between 1945 and 1965 should get tested at least once for hepatitis C. Studies have shown that a large majority of people with hepatitis B or C -- estimated at about 75% -- do not know they are infected.
Development of direct-acting antiviral agents for chronic hepatitis C has ushered in a new era of treatment; the currently approved drugs boceprevir (Victrelis) and telaprevir (Incivek) must be used with pegylated interferon/ribavirin, but all-oral regimens are under study.
For more information see:
- CDC: World Hepatitis Day -- July 28th: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/WorldHepDay.htm
- World Hepatitis Alliance: http://www.worldhepatitisalliance.org/Home.aspx
- World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/hepatitis/world_hepatitis_day/en/index.html
Below is an edited excerpt from a European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) press statement calling on the United Nations to do more to fight viral hepatitis worldwide.
On the Occasion of World Hepatitis Day, EASL Calls on the United Nations to Join the Effort to Tackle Viral Hepatitis
Geneva -- July 28, 2012 -- Marking World Hepatitis Day, the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) calls on the different organizations which make up the United Nations systems to take action to fight against viral hepatitis (hepatitis B and C), a potentially fatal infection of the liver which affects 500 million people.
Viral hepatitis is the cause of death of over one million people a year and, around the world, one in every 3 people has been exposed to either the Hepatitis B virus or the Hepatitis C virus. Even more worrying, those infected do not know this and for them the first indication of infection can be the development of liver cancer or liver failure.
EASL acknowledges the progress made in recent years, including the establishment of WHO’s Global Hepatitis Programme and welcomes the recent publication of the WHO strategy to prevent and control viral hepatitis infection. However, Professor Mark Thursz, EASL Secretary General, noted that "viral hepatitis needs to be recognized as a serious threat in its own right and measures need to be taken to prevent those not yet infected from becoming infected and to ensure treatment is made available for those who are infected."
EASL laments the impact of the exclusive emphasis on HIV, TB and malaria in policies arising from the Millennium Development Goals. As part of the work he has recently been conducting in Africa, Prof. Thursz met a patient who told him "If I don’t catch HIV soon I’ll die." Life saving antiviral medications which work against both HIV and HBV are provided by the Global Fund for patients with HIV but denied for patients with HBV. Prof Thursz remarked that, "Continuing to ignore viral hepatitis is discriminating and will compromise achievements in sustainable development. UNDP should give viral hepatitis the same priority as HIV, TB and malaria."
Prof. Markus Peck-Radosavljevic, EASL’s Vice-Secretary, noted, "Viral hepatitis is a global issue. We need WHO to take a more active role in setting standards to control the transmission of infection through medical interventions and blood products. It will be difficult to address the epidemic effectively until WHO establish screening and surveillance protocols in every region."
European Association for the Study of the Liver. On the Occasion of World Hepatitis Day, EASL Calls on the United Nations to Join the Effort to Tackle Viral Hepatitis. Press statement. July 28, 2012.