Hepatitis B and C co-infection on the rise, say experts

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Context;

Cases of co-infection of hepatitis B and C viruses are rising and are yet highly underestimated. A large number of patients with hepatitis C infection are also infected with hepatitis B virus, which stays in a repressed state and can reactivate at a later stage.

Facts & Figures:

  • With rates of such co-infection are up to 30% in high-risk populations like IV drug users, doctors say it is crucial to test all patients for both infections before starting treatment for hepatitis C.
  • Many transplant surgeries are happening in the State but awareness about co-infection of hepatitis B and C is very low, putting thousands of lives at risk every year.
  • Around two lakh Indians die annually due to ailing liver.

Direct Acting Anti-viral:

  • Hepatitis C can be cured now, thanks to the new generation DAA (direct acting anti-viral) drugs, while hepatitis B is difficult to cure. HCV [hepatitis C virus] often takes a dominant form in a patient and leaves HBV (hepatitis B virus) infection go unnoticed, which can prove fatal for a patient.

Mode of Transmission:

  • The mode of transmission of these two diseases is common. The HBV lies low and is often undetectable under the HCV, which expresses actively and drives the liver disease.
  • Only when treatment against HCV starts showing positive effect, the HBV activity surfaces, upsetting the treatment and straining the liver.
  • Controlling and managing HBV at such situations becomes very difficult.
  • Therefore, it is essential for patients to undergo tests for both virus infections and ruling out HBV before undergoing HCV treatment.

Chronic hepatitis:

  • Chronic hepatitis is a potentially dangerous disease, which manifests with symptoms such as tiredness, disturbed sleep, swelling of feet on travel and frequent urination during night.
  • In most cases, hepatitis patients remain asymptomatic until the disease has already caused substantial liver damage.
  • Co-infection leads to accelerated liver decompensation, endangering the patient’s life, he says.
  • Sharing sharp objects, unprotected sex, untested blood transfusions, and improperly sterilised needles are the main causes for transmission of both hepatitis B and C viruses.
  • If the liver ultimately falls prey to liver cirrhosis, transplant is the only solution. But the process of undergoing a transplant and the availability of cadaver donors are abysmally low in the State.

Source:TH