While the cure of hepatitis C today is not a medical problem for almost all patients, but at most, a health policy problem, the elimination or at least drug-free control of the HB virus can still only be achieved in a minority of chronically infected patients.
In order to move closer to the goal of curing hepatitis B, the International Coalition to Eliminate HBV (ICE-HBV) was presented at the ILC 2019 with the aim of accelerating the development of effective therapies against HBV infection. More than 50 experts from countries around the world as well as patient organizations and other stakeholders are participating in the initiative. The targets are obvious. Strategies will be developed to reduce the number of infected cells replicating the virus, to permanently switch off cccDNA ("covalently closed circular DNA") and to establish a functioning and effective immune response against HBV that will eventually lead to the elimination of the virus. An important step in this direction is the standardization of methods and protocols, which should also be available to researchers worldwide.
Chronic hepatitis B causes around 40% of all hepatocellular carcinomas worldwide, making it the second leading cause of cancer-related death. "Around 900,000 people die every year from the effects of hepatitis B. This is not acceptable," commented Prof. Dr. Peter Revill of the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia, Chairman of the ICE-HBV. The key to solving this problem is an effective therapy. The corresponding research is still underfinanced, says Revill.
The highly reliable vaccines available today are an important element in the fight against HBV, but will not be able to solve the problem alone, given the estimated 257 million people already infected. Moreover, the availability of drugs already approved today, which enable most patients to control the disease satisfactorily, is suboptimal in many places, so that the vast majority of patients worldwide remain untreated.
A corresponding position paper on the strategy of HBV elimination was published simultaneously with a presentation in the Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology and made available online.
A global scientific strategy to cure hepatitis B". Press conference of the International Coalition to Eliminate HBV (ICE-HBV) at the ILC 2019 on 10 April in Vienna.