Scientists at the Task Force for Global Health recently presented a new assessment of global progress toward the World Health Organization’s goal of eliminating hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) worldwide by 2030. Their conclusion? It’s definitely possible but will take a lot of work and money, MD Mag reports.
The report, written by John Ward, a senior scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Alan Hinman, an adviser for the Center for Vaccine Equity, zeroed in on how likely it is that global health efforts will meet WHO’s goal of achieving a 90 percent reduction in new chronic hepatitis infections and a 65 percent reduction in hepatitis-related deaths.
So far, according to the experts, there’s been a lot of progress in hepatitis elimination. For example, the three-dose series of the HBV vaccine has been more than 95 percent effective in preventing infections and protecting against chronic infection for over 30 years. However, in 2015, only 39 percent of newborns globally received the vaccine.
The report also cites recent data showing that people who inject drugs (PWID, one of the most at-risk groups for hepatitis C infection) reduce their risk of HCV transmission by 74 percent with adequate access to opioid substitution therapy—another big win on the prevention front. However, 89 percent of PWID cannot currently obtain this kind of treatment for their addiction, and harm reduction services are generally in short supply around the world.
Screening and treatment programs are also lagging, the study says. Today, only 9 percent of people living with hepatitis B around the world have been diagnosed and only 8 percent of those diagnosed have received treatment. The report also cited an estimate that of the 71 million people living with HCV, only 14 million, or 20 percent, have been diagnosed, and just 7 percent have received treatment.
That said, the report concludes: “With sufficient capacity, national HBV and HCV elimination programs will successfully meet and ultimately exceed goals for global elimination of HBV and HCV as public health threats.”
In an accompanying commentary, the National Institute of Health’s Harvey Alter, MD, and Scripps Research Institute scientist Francis Chirasi, MD added: “These are no longer pipe dreams but complex objectives that require global expansion of the global public health infrastructure.”
To learn more about the WHO’s plans for hepatitis elimination, click here.