Dr. Baruch S. Blumberg – 1925-2011 | Nobel Prize in Medicine 1976
Friday, July 28, 2017, we ones more celebrate World Hepatitis Day, instated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in honor of Baruch Blumberg (discoverer of the Hepatitis B virus in 1967), on the day of his birth.
It seem necessary to celebrate this day, not only to show our region and the whole world, that viral hepatitis still is an important health problem, but also to highlight that there have been remarkable advances in recent years.
That is how there are still approximately 250 million people infected with Hepatitis B and 170 million infected with Hepatitis C, these viruses being a major cause of cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver transplant worldwide.
On the other hand, despite the great progress in diagnosis, there are still inequalities in access, especially with the more complex exams that require molecular biology studies.
Regarding the prevention of Viral Hepatitis, apart from the necessary environmental, hygienic and health measures required, we only have very effective vaccines against Hepatitis A and B. Unfortunately, these are not included in universal vaccination programs in all the countries of Latin America.
Respecting the treatment, we must distinguish the great advances in new oral therapies against Hepatitis C, which allow us to definitively cure more than 95% of patients treated for 8-12 weeks. For Hepatitis B on the other hand, we only have suppressive therapies, which, although they manage to control the virus, do not eliminate it and are therefore of prolonged or indefinite use. Unfortunately, the high costs of these new drugs and the lack of health policies in many countries still limits the adequate access to these treatments.
We hope that the celebration of Hepatitis Day will make it possible for the whole world, especially Latin America, to show this often silenced disease and to make the scientific community, the governments of the different countries, the pharmaceutical industry and the patient organizations, enable the elimination of these diseases in the coming decades.
The Latin American Association for the Study of Liver with other international organizations has become part of this call and hopes to contribute from the scientific field to progress in this important area of hepatology.
Dr. Fernando Contreras
Dr. Javier Brahm
President ALEH Foundation