Over 250 million people worldwide are chronically infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and even though a prophylactic vaccine and effective antiviral therapies are available, no cure currently exists.
Worldwide efforts to eliminate Hepatitis B (HBV) have been boosted by the launch of a Global Scientific Strategy to Cure Hepatitis B, a global group of researchers, patient representatives and health organisations have come together to find a cure.
HBV is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease. The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person.
Today, more people die from chronic hepatitis B (CHB) virus infection than from malaria. CHB causes almost 40 per cent of hepatocellular carcinoma, which is the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide.
“Some 900,000 people dying unnecessarily of hepatitis B every year is simply unacceptable,” said Professor Peter Revill, ICE-HBV Chair and Royal Melbourne Hospital Senior Medical Scientist at the Doherty Institute.
“Inexplicably, despite the huge human and economic toll of chronic hepatitis B, HBV research remains largely underfunded, to the point of being compared to a neglected tropical disease. HBV cure research could make all the difference and prevent adverse outcomes in all people infected with the virus, allowing them to live treatment-free, fully productive lives and reduce the stigma associated with this chronic infection," Prof Peter Revill said.
The International Coalition to Eliminate NBV (ICE-HBV) Strategy argues strongly for the need for appropriate cure research and preparedness to complement the World Health Organization’s global elimination strategy, the HBV vaccine and the well-tolerated but poorly-accessed therapy.
The current treatment regime helps keep HBV under control, but it is not a cure because it cannot completely clear the virus from infected cells.
“Curing hepatitis B is not a pipe dream and should not be thought of as such,” said Dr Su Wang, Hepatitis B Foundation Board Member and President-Elect of the World Hepatitis Alliance.
“The 257 million of us living with hepatitis B are desperate for this to be reality to stop the needless suffering and deaths. We applaud the ICE-HBV Strategy as a sign of the commitment to scale up the necessary research and collaboration to get us there.”