Hepatitis Therapeutics: Protecting Millions from Deadly Disease

The liver is one of the largest and most vital organs in the human body. In an average-sized person, the liver is measured to the size of a football, weighing up to three pounds. The liver gets the maximum blood flow among all the body organs, which is about 1.6 liters per minute. 

The liver performs hundreds of important functions in the human body to maintain healthy functioning. It is important in regulating chemical levels in the body and releasing a product identified as bile. This substance is important for carrying away waste from the liver. 

A healthy liver is essential for long-term physiological well-being. One of the major diseases that threaten the health of the liver is hepatitis. The disease is caused when there is heavy use of alcohol, medications, and toxic substances. However, the common cause of hepatitis is often virus infection. The disease can be life-threatening, but, can be cured or prevented with the timely use of advanced and suitable hepatitis therapeutics available in the market.

Which Types of Hepatitis Virus Infections Are Highly Prevalent?

There are five major strains found of the Hepatitis virus, categorized as  A, B, C, D, and E. The type Hepatitis G infection is the most recently discovered type of hepatitis infection. The key difference in these types is severity, mode of transmission, preventive measures, and geographical distribution. The Hepatitis A, B, and C types have been found to be common causes of chronic liver disease in millions across the world. 

Hepatitis A (HAV): The liver inflammation caused by infection of Hepatitis A can cause mild to severe illness. The infection of HAV is commonly caused by the ingestion of contaminated water or food. However, it can also be caused by coming in direct contact with an infected person.

A 100% recovery is possible from HAV infection with a strong immunity system, however, the recovery process could take weeks following the infection. Unnecessary medication should not be taken to cure the infection or vomiting. There are no specific treatments for countering type A infection. The therapies are mostly administered for maintaining healthy functioning and nutritional balance of the body.

The mortality rate due to HAV infection is low, nonetheless, a small percentage of individuals with infections could face death from fulminant hepatitis. The lack of access to safe water and food is a major cause fuelling the growth of HAV disease.

Hepatitis B (HBV): The person with HBV infection can face the risk of both acute and chronic diseases. The viral infection is often transmitted from mother to child during the birth or delivery process. HBV infection can also be caused by coming in direct contact with the body fluids of an infected person.

The newly infected person with HBV rarely shows symptoms. However, vomiting, fatigue, dark urine, and nausea are common symptoms in those who display signs of infection. The chronic infection of HBV has the potential to cause death also, which is why immediate treatment should be started. 

There is no in particular hepatitis B treatment in global healthcare.  Although, an effective vaccine that offers 98% to 100% protection against HBV is available. Chronic HBV infection can be cured with medicines such as oral antiviral agents. In 2021, World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that about 12% to 25% of chronic HBV infections would require treatment.

Hepatitis C (HCV): The virus causes chronic as well as acute infection. Acute HCV-infected persons do not display symptoms and most cases do not lead to death. Whereas chronic HCV infections are more of serious nature, the chance of cirrhosis (scarred and permanently damaged liver) is also high within 20 years.

The transmission of HCV can be caused by the reuse of medical equipment on patients such as needles and syringes, the transmission of unscreened blood or blood products, and injecting drugs with shared injection equipment. The transmission is also possible from mother to child during birth. Also, the possibility of HCV is likely when there is sexual intercourse with an infected person.

Most of the infected people do not display any symptoms owing to which the rate of diagnostics is also lower in newly infected people. Symptoms may take years to display. Nonetheless, an early diagnosis could help in preventing further damage. The immune response from a newly infected person’s body can clear the infection. In case the infection turns chronic, the person is required to take treatment. 

WHO has recommended hepatitis C drugs therapy with pan-genotypic direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) for adults, adolescents, and children down to 3 years of age with chronic hepatitis C infection. The DAA treatment lasts usually 12 to 24 weeks and depends on the existence of Cirrhosis. In 2022, WHO in its new recommendation noted that pangenotypic treatments, which are given to adults, are also to be used for adolescents and children age group.

Growing Role of Hepatitis Therapeutics

It is estimated that every thirty seconds one person dies due to chronic hepatitis virus infection. Worldwide, more than 350 million people are estimated to have infections of various hepatitis viruses. The symptoms are generally not present in many individuals who are infected, owing to which many are unaware of the disease’s presence in their bodies. 

It is anticipated that 9 out of 10 people who have hepatitis are not aware of getting the infection. Although the prevalence of hepatitis infection is major and greatly concerning, it can be prevented in today’s healthcare with the availability of hepatitis therapeutics. 

Some of the major players in the global hepatitis therapeutics development space are Johnson & Johnson Services, Inc.; Merck & Co., Inc.; Gilead Sciences, Inc.; AbbVie Inc.; GSK plc.; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd; Lupin Pharmaceuticals, Inc., among others.  

These prominent healthcare and pharmaceutical providers have introduced pathbreaking hepatitis therapeutics such as vaccines, drugs, or treatments to cure the main types of hepatitis. The investment in research and development for the discovery of new therapeutics is also expected to boost in the coming years, owing to the growing concerns about infectious diseases.

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