By Professor Mark Thursz, Professor of Hepatology within the Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London
Five viruses, hepatitis A – E, specifically infect the liver and cause acute hepatitis or chronic hepatitis.
Over 350 million people worldwide are chronically infected and are therefore at risk of cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C virus are together responsible for over a million deaths per year. The majority of infections and deaths related to these viruses occur in low and middle income countries. In 2010 the United Nations World Health Assembly passed a resolution which recognised the burden of disease imposed by these viruses and initiated a public health response to viral hepatitis which included the inception of World Hepatitis Day.
By Dr Graham Cooke, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Infectious Diseases, Imperial College London
A couple of weeks ago we published our paper on the burden of viral hepatitis. We’d hoped that the Lancet would publish it in time for World Health Assembly in May and it might get a bit of attention. That couldn’t be done, so it came out on the 6th July. The same day as Chilcot. Not a brilliant piece of planning, it has to be said, and a reminder of how much I have to learn about PR.
With colleagues at Imperial, we have been studying and writing about hepatitis for some years.
By James Frater, Amos Bursary student
As part of my gap year, with the help of the Amos Bursary and Imperial College London, I was given the opportunity to spend 3 months in The Gambia. I assisted the PROLIFICA (Prevention of Liver Fibrosis and Cancer in Africa) project, where I was able to experience various laboratory procedures and resource-poor healthcare services.
I was given a thorough induction on laboratory etiquette and different laboratory practices, as well as training on how to handle laboratory equipment and the various biomedical samples. This meant I was confidently able to work in and navigate my way around the laboratory with a relatively good level of competence.
Today, the 28th July, is World Hepatitis Day and the birthday of Nobel Laureate Professor Baruch (Barry) Blumberg, discoverer of the hepatitis B virus and developer of the first hepatitis B vaccine.
Viral hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver, caused a variety of viruses, named alphabetically from A to E. These are spread mostly through contact with infected blood or bodily fluids. With hepatitis B, it can also be passed between mothers and children, sexual partners and between patients and health workers where unsafe medical practice occurs. The prevalence of hepatitis B and hepatitis C in injection drug users is also very high, while approximately 10% of the world’s population is currently infected or has been exposed.