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May 28, 2020 Thursday 05:18:28 PM IST

Beware of Hepatitis D, It can Lead to Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Image by Fernando Zhiminaicela for

Hepatitis D, one of the most dangerous forms of chronic viral hepatitis, is capable of causing hepatocellular carcinoma, a particularly aggressive and often fatal liver cancer. The scientists at University of Geneva (UNIGE) who did meta-analysis of available data, have concluded that people infected with Hepatitis D have upto three times the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma compared to those only infected with Hepatitis B. According to World Health Organisation, hundreds of millions of people are infected by Hepatitis B and Hepatitis D virus in turn infects a significant proportion of Hepatitis B carriers. It is estimated that 15 to 20 million are infected with Hepatitis D. Apart from interferon, an antiviral and an immuno-modulator with limited effectiveness but with deleterious side effects, there is currently no treatment for HepatitisD. “In our view, the evolution towards liver cancer is grossly underestimated, Francesco Negro points out. And yet, this disease affects young patients who suffer from cirrhosis as early as the age of 25-30 years.”
Several ways of controlling the disease are currently being explored: Francesco Negro’s laboratory is studying the epigenetic changes in duced by the virus and the mechanism of giving rise to liver tumours. The scientists at UNIGE conclude: “Our work underlines the need to improve He patitisD screening in HepatitisB patients and the urgent need for effective antiviral therapies, such as the one against HepatitisC, which has saved the lives of millions of people since 2011.” 
There are five types of hepatitis viruses, with very different manifestations and consequences. Hepatitis A and E cause acute infections that can be severe but transient. HepatitisB, C and D, however, can become chronic and cause liver dysfunction months or even years after infection. Although HepatitisC is now well treated, HepatitisB and especially D are still difficult to control. “The most serious consequence of HepatitisB and D is hepatocellular carcinoma, explains Francesco Negro, Professor at the Department of Pathology and Immunology of UNIGE Faculty of Medicine and Head of the HUG Viropathology Unit. It was already known that co-infection of HepatitisB and D accelerates the progression of cirrhosis. However, to what extent co-infection of HepatitisB and D accelerates the progression towards this particularly aggressive liver cancer? This remained to be evaluated.”