Hepatitis B: 300 million patients, of which 95% not or poorly treated

News 26 March, 2018
  • AFP

    Monday, 26 march, 2018 19:12

    Monday, 26 march, 2018 19:12

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    Hepatitis B is a global problem that affects nearly 300 million people in the world, of which 95% is not or poorly treated, according to a study published Tuesday.

    This viral disease, an infection of the liver, may cause, if it is not treated, to life-threatening complications such as cirrhosis or cancer.

    The number of deaths due to these complications amounts to 600 000 each year, according to the estimates of this study published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

    The situation is particularly serious in pregnant women, who can transmit the virus to their children: only 1% in the world receive adequate treatment.

    One of the reasons is the under-diagnosis. If a test has existed since the beginning of the 1970s, nine patients out of ten don’t know.

    The virus is highly contagious and is transmitted easily through blood or other bodily fluids. And children are often the victims.

    The disease is not curable, but antiviral drugs can help combat the symptoms. In addition, a vaccine has existed since the early 1980s, recommended by the world health Organization since 1992, in new-born babies in their first 24 hours. But only half of them in the world to receive it so quickly.

    “Most transmissions from mother to child takes place in the few days following birth, therefore the injection at birth is vital,” stressed the lead author of the study, Homie Razavi, virologist at the research centre CDA Louisville, Colorado, United States).

    Sixteen countries account for more than 80% of children five years of age affected. Gold only one, China, reached a vaccination coverage of 90% at birth.

    The study gathers data from 435 other, and the work of more than 600 national experts. It resulted in an estimate of 292 million patients by 2016, which is 4% of the world population.

    The virus is most prevalent in eastern Asia and sub-saharan Africa. In the central African republic in particular, 12% of the population is reached. Five emerging countries (China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and the Philippines) account for 60% of infections.

    “This study details just how misplaced the priorities and spending for the treatment against hepatitis B”, commented on the two professors of medicine cited by The Lancet, Geoffrey Dusheiko and Kosh Agarwal. According to them, “it is necessary to raise awareness about hepatitis B at the same level as that for the HIV.”