Press Release – Hepatitis C – From International Awareness to local Identification

Hepatitis C – From international Awareness to local Identification

On the 5th ofOctober this year, the Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Prize for Medicine to the three researchers who first identified the virus that causes hepatitis C, in 1989 – researchers Harvey J. Alter (USA), Michael Houghton (UK) and Charles M. Rice (USA) who upon identifying the virus that causes hepatitis C (HCV), initially calling it the “Non-A-Non-B virus”. Their discovery and identification of the new virus led to their saving a great many lives, with the disease being a silent global health problem, causing liver cirrhosis and often leading to cancer if left untreated. From the discovery of HCV a few clear steps of understanding and treatment of followed, leading us to today, when hepatitis C can effectively be cured. The exceptional success of the team of researchers has been lauded internationally, leading them to receive the most important distinction for services to humanity – the Nobel Prize. Although huge strides have been made in the treatment of hepatitis C viral infection, there is another big problem still outstanding – identifying infected people. Also known as the “Silent killer”, the virus is difficult to diagnose due to its asymptomatic manifestations.

The World Health Organization has adopted the first Global Health Strategy on viral hepatitis, with the general goal of eliminating viral hepatitis as a threat to public health by 2030, highlighting 2 targets: reducing new infections by 80% and lowering mortality by 65%. In Romania, the prevalence of hepatitis is known fragmentarily, but from the few national studies estimate some of the highest prevalences of HBV and HCV infections in Europe. Romania is the 3rd country in Europe in terms of HBV infection prevalence, taking into account that only an estimated 10% of cases are diagnosed. Moreover, approximately 70% of Romanians have never been tested for HCV infection, which is serious considering that the infected population in Romania is estimated at over 500,000, our country being surpassed only by Italy which has approximately 700,000 infected people, but a population triple in number.

So what should we do? The only viable solution is population screening, and the Fundeni Clinical Institute, through the two projects: „ Live(Ro) 1– The training of Romanian healthcare professionals for the populational screening of chronic hepatitis B / C / D infections” and „LIVE (RO) 2-SUD: Regional program for prevention, screening and diagnosis in patients with chronic liver disease secondary to viral infections with hepatitis B / D /” joined the fight against viral hepatitis.

The two projects cover all aspects related to the successful completion of a populational screening , using the experience of medical specialists to achieve:

  1. A national campaign of education, information and awareness raising on B / C / D virusesF
  2. Training of specialized healthcare professionals in providing services in the field of prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis, namely 349 general practitioners who benefitted from the training courses organized within the LIVERO 1 project
  3. Population screening for B, C and hepatic virus infection D for a number of 120,000 people from the South/Muntenia and Southwest/Oltenia development regions, as part of the LIVERO 2 project