September 26, 2023

Researchers from the IMED co-authored in The Lancet Public Health journal

A landmark research paper entitled “Hepatitis B and C in Europe: an update from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019” was published on 5 September in The Lancet Public Health, shedding light on the current situation of hepatitis B and C virus infections across Europe. The study was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and led by an international team of researchers from the Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) network. The paper was co-authored by Professor Nuno Taveira, associate researcher and group leader at iMed.ULisboa – FFUL, and Dr. Claudia Palladino, researcher at iMed.ULisboa.

Hepatitis B and C are serious viral infections that, if left untreated, can lead to chronic liver disease, cirrhosis and even liver cancer. The study provides a critical and comprehensive overview of mortality, prevalence, incidence and disability-adjusted life years from acute hepatitis, cirrhosis and other chronic liver diseases, and liver cancer, as well as regional variations and trends in these diseases from 2010 to 2019, highlighting the urgency of coordinated actions in European countries to achieve the goal of elimination by 2030.

The main conclusions of the study are:

  1. High prevalence: Hepatitis B and C continue to have a high prevalence in many European countries, affecting millions of people [8.2 million (7.5 to 8.8) cases of HBV-related cirrhosis and 11.8 million (9.7 to 14.4) cases of HCV-related cirrhosis].
  2. Temporal variations: Between 2010 and 2019, despite an overall decrease in the prevalence of acute hepatitis and cirrhosis caused by HBV and HCV, there were no significant changes in the prevalence of liver cancer.
  3. Regional variations: There are significant regional differences in the burden of these diseases. In 2019, Central and Eastern Europe had higher (age-standardized) mortality rates for HBV-related cirrhosis and liver cancer than Western Europe. Prevalence and mortality rates for HCV-related cirrhosis were higher in Eastern Europe, while prevalence and mortality rates for liver cancer were higher in Western Europe.
  4. Progress and challenges: Although some progress has been made in the management of these infections, significant challenges remain, including access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment. A significant proportion of hepatitis B and C cases in Europe remained undiagnosed, highlighting the need to improve screening and testing programmes. The study underlines the importance of vaccination programmes to prevent hepatitis B infection and access to affordable treatment for hepatitis B and C.

This research serves as a wake-up call for policy makers, health professionals and the public to prioritise efforts to prevent and control hepatitis B and C in order to reduce the burden of these infections and improve the quality of life for millions of people.

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