GCU researchers back moves to eliminate viral hepatitis

28 July 2016

GCU researchers back moves to eliminate viral hepatitis

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) are joining the global commitment to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.

Viral hepatitis – inflammation of the liver – is a leading cause of death, claiming 1.45 million lives each year, but improvements in vaccines and treatments mean there is an opportunity to tackle this worldwide.

Today (July 28) is World Hepatitis Day and the World Health Organization (WHO) has developed the first ever viral hepatitis global elimination strategy.

Public health experts at GCU have contributed greatly to the supporting UK report, published today by Public Health England, which focuses on hepatitis C, the most common type of viral hepatitis in the UK.

More than 200,000 people in the UK have hepatitis C infection, commonly spread through re-use of needles, syringes and other equipment by people who inject drugs.

Studies suggest treatment with new direct acting anti-viral drugs has great potential to reduce the number of people living with and experiencing the consequences of hepatitis C, but the cost of therapy remains significant.

Sharon Hutchinson, Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health in the School of Health and Life Sciences, said: “The death toll from viral hepatitis exceeds HIV, malaria and tuberculosis and so it is vital that governments invest to eliminate it as a public health threat.

“In the UK, hepatitis C remains a major public health issue and we require a step change in our approach if we are to eliminate it by 2030. There persists a high proportion of people who remain undiagnosed, so whilst new drugs can reduce the number of deaths, greater awareness amongst people who inject drugs – particularly those who have injected in the past – is vital.

“The research team at GCU will continue to work closely with Health Protection Scotland and our international partners at the World Health Organization and World Hepatitis Alliance to build the evidence to help eliminate viral hepatitis.”

GCU was a supporting partner at the first World Hepatitis Summit held in Glasgow last year and GCU researchers are currently working with Health Protection Scotland to conduct a Europe-wide assessment of hepatitis B, C and E monitoring and testing activities on behalf of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

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