The causes of hepatitis B and C
Hepatitis can be caused by many different things including viral infections, parasites, bacteria, chemicals, autoimmunity, drugs or alcohol. Of these, viral infection is the most common cause of chronic (long-term) hepatitis, which can lead to severe liver damage including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The risks of hepatitis
Hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV and HCV) are among the world’s most common infectious pathogens. It is estimated that 500 million people – 1 in 12 of the global population – are chronically infected with one or both of these viruses.1,2 The majority of these people live in the developing world and many of them are unaware that they are infected. Chronically infected patients are at increased risk of developing cirrhosis, hepatic decompensation and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which together account for more than 1 million deaths annually.3
The hepatitis B virus is a resilient virus present in all bodily fluids of infected individuals. It is resistant to breakdown and able to survive outside the body. It can be transmitted effectively through contact with infected bodily fluids in the same way as HIV. However, HBV is 50–100 times more infectious than HIV.
Screening for HBV and HCV infection is crucial, not only to detect patients who may require treatment to reduce the risk of progression to severe sequelae, but also to reduce transmission rates.
The primary objective of therapy for chronic HBV is to achieve control of viral replication and halt disease progression/improve liver histology. This will decrease pathogenicity and infectivity and thereby stop or reduce hepatic necroinflammation.
Chronic hepatitis C infection may result in severe liver damage leading to liver failure, HCC and death. As a consequence, therapeutic intervention that can arrest, and perhaps even reverse, the disease before irreversible liver damage occurs.
Source: EPG guide- www.epgonline.org/hepatitis/hepatitis.cfm
1. World Health Organization. World Health Organization Hepatitis B Fact Sheet. 1998.
2. World Hepatitis Alliance. www.aminumber12.org
3. Lai CL, Ratziu V, Yuen MF, Poynard T. Viral hepatitis B. Lancet 2003;362:2089–94