The U.S. has the “opportunity and responsibility” to lead the a global action against hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV), according to a new report published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The 2 diseases kill a million people globally and about 20,000 in the U.S.
The promise for HBV elimination rests on the success and efficacy of vaccines, which convey 95% immunity. According to the report, a combination of comprehensive disease surveillance, immunization registries, reduction of HBV infection stigma, and improved screening are all essential for HBV elimination. New research on reactivation, better vaccines, and a treatment to cure infection also will play significant roles..
While there is no vaccine for HCV, new therapies do offer a cure for the most patients. Still, ending HCV requires enacting a multipronged approach: ending transmission, eliminating chronic HCV, and reducing morbidity and mortality associated with the disease. Newer therapies have addressed some of these challenges, but cutting off HCV transmission remains an issue. In the U.S., people who inject drugs have the highest risk of transmitting the virus. “A strategy to stop transmission in this group should give attention to both reducing the risk of contracting HCV among people who are not infected and to reducing the likelihood of transmission,” the study authors argue.
“In making its conclusion regarding the feasibility of hepatitis B and C elimination, the committee acknowledges that considerable barriers must be overcome to meet these goals.” Still the report insists, HCV and HBV deaths can be averted. “Although an elimination goal is entirely feasible,” the report concludes, “it is not necessarily likely without considerable attention to the barriers discussed in this report.”