Hepatitis as a World Health Problem


Viral hepatitis is a health problem affecting hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The morbidity and mortality from viral hepatitis is enormous and affects all age groups. Hepatitis A and E are enterically transmitted viruses, which are spontaneously cleared by the host and do not lead to chronic infection. Hepatitis B may be spread vertically, sexually or parenterally whereas hepatitis C is most often acquired parenterally from contaminated blood products (historically) or via the use of intravenous drugs. Both of these infections may lead to chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis with its attendant complications including portal hypertension, liver failure and hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatitis D can only cause infection together with hepatitis B. It may lead to an aggressive hepatitis as well as chronicity. Although our knowledge of viral genetics, epidemiology and treatment options is increasing, prevention remains the most cost effective method of controlling viral hepatitis.

Keywords: hepatitis; world; prevention; immunization; treatment

Figure 1.

Typical clinical and serological features of hepatitis A infection. HAV, Hepatitis A virus; Ig immunoglobulin.

Figure 2.

Clinical and serological profile of acute hepatitis B with resolution. DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid; HBcAb, hepatitis B core antibody; HBeAg/Ab, hepatitis B e antigen/antibody; HBsAg/Ab, hepatitis B surface antigen/antibody; HBV, Hepatitis B virus.

Figure 3.

Clinical and serological profile of chronic hepatitis B (adult acquisition). DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid; HBcAg/Ab, hepatitis B core antigen/antibody; HBeAg/Ab, hepatitis B e antigen/antibody; HBsAg, hepatitis B surface antigen; HBV, Hepatitis B virus.



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Further Reading

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Bain, Vincent G, and Tandon, Puneeta(Jul 2007) Hepatitis as a World Health Problem. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002236.pub2]