Panel Advocates Improved Understanding of Hepatitis B and Screening of High-Risk Populations
Management of hepatitis B is a challenge for physicians and patients due to an incomplete understanding of the disease course, complex treatment indications, and the lack of large studies focusing on important health outcomes.
Balintfy: Management of hepatitis B is a challenge for physicians and patients due to an incomplete understanding of the disease course, complex treatment indications, and the lack of large studies focusing on important health outcomes. However—
Sorrell: This is a totally preventable disease if you vaccinate.
Balintfy: Dr. Michael Sorrell, Professor of Medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, says there is a tremendous success rate in treating the disease process in the short term.
Sorrell: What we're lacking is long term studies in subsets of populations decide who should be treated and when they should be treated, and when they should not be treated.
Balintfy: Studying hepatitis B is important because it is the leading cause of liver cancer worldwide.
Sorrell: It's an important cause of liver cancer in the United States, however, liver cancer is also caused by hepatitis C which is actually more common than hepatitis B and probably causes more cancer.
Balintfy: Dr. Sorrell, who chaired an NIH Consensus Development Program panel, stressed the importance of vaccination.
Sorrell: One of the things we discussed and spend a lot of time discussing was this question of vertical transmission from mother to child. If the mother is infected with hepatitis B, at least 90% of the time the child whose born will be infected with hepatitis B.Balintfy: Dr. Sorrell adds that infants and children up to five years old have less vigorous immune systems which can result in very high levels of the virus in their bodies. While these patients may have minimal disease symptoms, the virus is still transmissible and some patients will go on to develop chronic liver disease, cirrhosis and cancer. For more information on the panel conclusions, visit consensus.nih.gov. More details on hepatitis B are available at www.niddk.nih.gov. This is Joe Balintfy, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.