The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday issued their first-ever guidance for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B, a viral infection that attacks the liver and results in an estimated 650,000 deaths each year.
WHO said some 240 million people worldwide have chronic hepatitis B virus with the highest rates of infection in Africa and Asia. People with the infection are at increased risk of dying from cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The UN health body noted effective medicines exist that can prevent people from developing these conditions. But most people who need these medicines are unable to access them or can only obtain substandard treatment.
The guidance lays out a simplified approach for the care of people living with chronic hepatitis B, particularly in settings with limited resources.
The guidelines recommend the use of a few simple non-invasive tests to assess the stage of liver disease to help identify who needs treatment, prioritizing treatment for those with cirrhosis — the most advanced stage of liver disease — as well as all children are vaccinated against hepatitis B, with a first dose given at birth.
“Deciding who needs treatment for hepatitis B depends on a number of factors,” Stefan Wiktor said, who leads WHO’s global hepatitis program.
“These new guidelines, which give treatment recommendations that rely on simple, inexpensive tests, will help clinicians make the right decisions,” he added. Enditem