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More than 3,000 people die every day from liver disease caused by viral hepatitis!

More than 3,000 people die every day from liver disease caused by viral hepatitis, and today (July 28) is World Hepatitis Day.

What is World Hepatitis Day?
World Hepatitis Day is an annual opportunity to raise awareness about the suffering caused by hepatitis, encourage action and highlight the need for a greater global response to this insidious disease and the suffering it causes.

Why does it happen on 28 July?
According to WHO (World Health Organisation) this particular date was chosen “because it is the birthday of Nobel-prize winning scientist Dr Baruch Blumberg, who discovered hepatitis B virus (HBV) and developed a diagnostic test and vaccine for the virus.” (1)

What is Hepatitis and why should we care about it?
Hepatitis is the medical term for inflammation of your liver. The most common cause of hepatitis is infection with a virus, with Hepatitis A, B and C being the most common types.

Symptoms of the disease include yellow discolouration of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice), lack of appetite, vomiting, tiredness, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea. Chronic hepatitis (ongoing for more than 6 months) can cause scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), liver failure, liver cancer and death. (2)  Globally, hundreds of millions of people live with hepatitis, and it kills more than a million people each year.

A model of the Hepatitis C virus

A CGI image of the hepatitis C virus.

Can hepatitis be treated?
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Hepatitis B can be treated (with about 25% success) and its symptoms suppressed through a regime of injections and daily oral medications. Hepatitis C is also treatable with injections and oral medications, but these are very expensive and can cause unpleasant side effects. Hepatitis A, B, and D can be prevented by immunisation prior to infection. (3)

What’s the situation in Aotearoa New Zealand?
It’s estimated that there are about 150,000 people in New Zealand living with hepatitis, with many tens of thousands of them being undiagnosed. (4) Current data suggests that Māori are over-represented in the population of people living with hepatitis in New Zealand. Approximately 1 in 4 people diagnosed with chronic Hepatitis C are Māori  (5), and Māori are 7 times more likely to be diagnosed with hepatitis B than non-Māori. (6)

Is a cure for hepatitis on the way?
Globally, there are around 325 million people living with hepatitis – a staggering number that represents enormous human suffering. Hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer (7), and liver cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide – so an effective treatment for Hepatitis would also have a huge impact on overall cancer mortality.

Kimer Med recognises that there are some significant challenges to overcome with regards to an antiviral approach to treating Hepatitis B, however Hepatitis A and Hepatitis C are squarely in our sights and we are optimistic that our antiviral compound VTose® will show good results when we test it against these viruses.

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