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Journey to the Cure: What Programs are Available for People Living with Hepatitis B?

Welcome to “Journey to the Cure.” This is a web series that chronicles the progress at the Hepatitis B Foundation and Baruch S. Blumberg Institute towards finding the cure for hepatitis B.

In the second episode (part 2), Kristine Alarcon, MPH sits down with Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH, Vice President of Public Health Programs of the Hepatitis B Foundation, to talk about public health research at the Hepatitis B Foundation.

For any questions about hepatitis B, please email info@hepb.org.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this audio post is not intended to serve as medical advice of endorsement of any product. The Hepatitis B Foundation strongly recommends each person discuss this information and their questions with a qualified health care provider.

Edited by:
Kristine Alarcon, MPH and Samantha Young

Music:
Modern – iMovie Library Collection

Script:

Welcome to Journey to the Cure! Every month, we’ll sit down with scientists from the Hepatitis B Foundation and the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute to talk to you about hepatitis B and efforts to find a cure for hepatitis B. There’s still a long way to go, but we’re here to walk you through our journey.

Kristine Alarcon, MPH:
In our last episode, Dr. Block was talking about how the Hep B Foundation is dedicated to public health research. Can you tell us more about that?

Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH:
One of our major goals is to get everyone in the United States – or in the world really – but primarily in the US, everyone who has hepatitis B should be aware of their diagnosis and should be able to access to care. In order to do that, we have to do research. We have to figure out what are the best ways to get people tested and into care. In order to do that, we have to first figure out why people aren’t getting tested now, what barriers are people facing, what challenges are people facing to get tested, and how can we help them overcome those challenges. Every time we do a public health program, we are also doing research, so we are collecting a lot of data. And then, we use the data to develop new programs, and we share it with others as well. We also collect information and data on prevalence, so looking at where some of the high risk and highly impacted communities are in the U.S. We will do testing ourselves. We’ll go into communities in Philadelphia, and we’ll do hepatitis B testing. Through that, we know which communities need more care.

Kristine Alarcon, MPH:
What types of public health programs are you carrying out right now?

Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH:
We have a number of different programs right now. One is our Hep B United Philadelphia program, where we like to train the trainers. In Philadelphia, we’re training people who do health education; we’re training community leaders; and we’re helping them to learn about hep B, so that that they can go into high risk communities and teach other people about hep B. We’re also screening a lot of people. This year, we screened a little over 200 people for hepatitis B. When we find people to be infected, we link them into care. We’re also working on a new project, looking at the challenges that African immigrants face in the US in terms of hepatitis B testing. We’re trying to figure out what are the best ways to overcome those challenges and what are the best ways to get people tested and into care. And then, we have our #justB program, which is our national patient storytelling program, where people who have hep B or with family members who have hep B tell their stories and make videos, and they share how hep B has impacted their lives.

Kristine Alarcon, MPH:
Thank you so much for joining us in this episode!

Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH:
Thank you!

Journey to the Cure: What is the Future of the Hep B Cure? ft. Timothy Block, PhD

Welcome to “Journey to the Cure” This is a web series that chronicles the progress at the Hepatitis B Foundation and Baruch S. Blumberg Institute towards finding the cure for hepatitis B.

In the first episode (part 2), Kristine Alarcon, MPH sits down with Timothy Block, PhD, President and Co-Founder of the Hepatitis B Foundation, to talk about what a hepatitis B cure could look like in the future.

For any questions about hepatitis B, please email info@hepb.org

Disclaimer: The information provided in this audio post is not intended to serve as medical advice or endorsement of any product. The Hepatitis B Foundation strongly recommends each person discuss this information and their questions with a qualified health care provider.

Special Thanks:
Samantha Young

Music:
Modern – iMovie Library Collection

 

Script: 

Welcome to Journey to the Cure! Every month, we’ll sit down with scientists from the Hepatitis B Foundation and the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute to talk to you about hepatitis B and efforts to find a cure for hepatitis B. There’s still a long way to go, but we’re here to walk you through our journey.

Timothy Block, PhD:
The Hepatitis B Foundation is now largely devoted to basically outreach and what I call human services or being there for people. We wanted, however, to keep pressure on research communities – to make sure there was a research organization. The Hepatitis B Foundation created a second non-profit organization, originally called the IHVR, renamed in Dr. Blumberg’s honor after he passed away; and that’s the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute. And that’s a group of research scientists.

Kristine Alarcon, MPH:
What do we need in order to find a cure for hepatitis B?

Timothy Block, PhD:
Well, we need more research. We need focused research and the community’s kind of coming together with a consensus. The Hepatitis B Foundation organized that workshop, which we published research priorities. We call it the “Roadmap to a Cure.” The more scholarly, conservative title for that is a research agenda- research priorities. We believe that if you follow that roadmap or you follow those lists, we will be most likely- I don’t want promise anything- but we will most likely to find if not a cure, transformational new medicines. But, I’m hopeful that they’ll be one form of cure. So you follow that roadmap, and we should get there.

Kristine Alarcon, MPH:
Thank you so much. This has been very insightful on what it looks like for the cure in the future. Thank you again for joining us.

Timothy Block, PhD:
Thank you again so much for the opportunity and what I want the listeners to know that the Hepatitis B Foundation is at the forefront of this work. We were there 27 years ago. We were there through the times when hepatitis B was being forgotten. The cure for hepatitis C has brought new focus on the problem of hepatitis and we were- and we’re here now. We’re sitting in an office that is in a building that has the Hepatitis B Foundation outreach and advocacy staff of nurses and public health professionals. We’re also here with as I said with 100 scientists, who are focused on looking for a cure for hepatitis B. We’re working for the commercial community, working with the academic community. But we’re here stimulating the research, promoting workshops, promoting seminars, but also doing our own research. So I hope that you keep that in mind and know that there are- there are a group of people who remain very focused on it.

Kristine Alarcon, MPH:
Thank you so much for joining us and we’ll see you on the next episode.

Questions? Please contact us at info@hepb.org

 

Vlog: What Do We Do at a Hep B Screening?

Join Kristine Alarcon, MPH for A Day in the Life of a Public Health Coordinator to learn about some of the activities we at the Hepatitis B Foundation take part in!

This episode highlights our events for our local program, Hep B United Philadelphia, during January 2018. We show you the “behind-the-scenes” of a hepatitis B screening event.

Journey to the Cure: What is Hepatitis B? ft. Timothy Block, PhD

Welcome to Journey to the Cure. This is a web series that chronicles the progress at the Hepatitis B Foundation and Baruch S. Blumberg Institute towards finding the cure for hepatitis B.

In the first episode (part 1), Kristine Alarcon, MPH sits down with Timothy Block, PhD, President and Co-Founder of the Hepatitis B Foundation, to talk about the basics of hepatitis B.

For any questions about hepatitis B, please email info@hepb.org

The Hepatitis B Foundation is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to finding a cure and improving the lives of those affected by hepatitis B worldwide through research, education and patient advocacy. Visit us at www.hepb.org, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hepbfoundation, on Twitter at twitter@hepbfoundation, and our Blog at www.hepb.org/blog

Disclaimer: The information provided in this video is not intended to serve as medical advice or endorsement of any product. The Hepatitis B Foundation strongly recommends each person discuss this information and their questions with a qualified health care provider.

Edited by:
Samantha Young

Music:
Modern – iMovie Library Collection

Vlog: “Hilleman: A Perilous Quest to Save the World’s Children” Screening

Join Kristine Alarcon, MPH for A Day in the Life of a Public Health Coordinator to learn about some of the activities we at the Hepatitis B Foundation take part in!

This episode highlights our special film screening of “Hilleman: A Perilous Quest to Save the World’s Children.”

Check out our previous blog post for more information about the event here and our last vlog here.

Special Film Screening: “Hilleman: A Perilous Quest to Save the World’s Children”

The Hepatitis B Foundation was excited to share a special film screening of Hilleman: A Perilous Quest to Save the World’s Children.

Packed house at the film screening with opening remarks by Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH

The documentary film, produced by The Vaccine Makers Project, follows the unknown story of a man who “had more of an impact on [people’s] lives compared to Einstein.” The film tells the story of a courageous and gutsy scientist, Dr. Maurice R. Hilleman, and the elimination of diseases of children. With his unwavering determination, Dr. Hilleman invented the first-ever vaccine against a human cancer (the hepatitis B vaccine), developed the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) combination vaccine, and prevented pandemic flu. During World War II he developed an urgently needed vaccine for Japanese B encephalitis in 30 days.

 

The hepatitis B virus was also featured in the documentary.

He is responsible for more than half of the vaccines children receive today and is credited with saving more than eight million lives every year. Now through exclusive interviews with Dr. Hilleman and his peers, rare archival footage, and 3-D animation, this new documentary puts a human face to vaccine science, revealing the character that drove this bold, complex, and heroic man.

When parents began choosing not to vaccinate their children in the 1990s, a cruel irony became clear; Hilleman’s unprecedented successes have allowed us to forget just how devastating childhood diseases can be. The documentary reminds us by allowing us to see these diseases as part of the film.

Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH introducing the panelists. L-R: Timothy Block, PhD (Moderator), Donald Rayne Mitchell, David Oshinsky, PhD, Walter Tsou , MD, MPH, Paul Offit, MD

Community members from Philadelphia and Bucks County came for the film screening as they enjoyed fun movie snacks. They also enjoyed a panel discussion moderated by Timothy Block, PhD, with the documentary director and esteemed representatives from scientific community. Expert panelists included Donald Rayne Mitchell, Paul Offit, MD, David Oshinsky, PhD, and Walter Tsou, MD, MPH. They shared their thoughts on the documentary, Dr. Hilleman’s life, and the future of vaccines. Mitchell and Dr. Offit expressed that the documentary film was created to “inspire a kid or to get into [scientific] work someday,” and to “put a human face on vaccines.”

For more information about the film, click here. If you are interested in learning more about the hepatitis B vaccine, click here.

Be on the look out for a special “preview” vlog of the film screening at the end of December 2017.

Reduce Liver Cancer Risk and Join a Liver Cancer Awareness Twitter Chat Oct. 12

On Thursday, Oct. 12, representatives from Hepatitis B Foundation, CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis, and NASTAD (the National Alliance of State and Territorial Aids Directors) will co-host a twitter chat at 2 p.m. EST using the hashtag #liverchat.

Also participating is special guest Katherine McGlynn, PhD of the National Cancer Institute. Dr. McGlynn is a Senior Investigator at the National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Metabolic Epidemiology Branch. She is a researcher and expert in hepatocellular carcinoma.

Below are questions scheduled to be discussed during the chat. How can you contribute to the conversation?  Share any resources or strategies you have that raise awareness and improve liver cancer surveillance. Join the conversation with the hashtag #liverchat.

Q1: What is primary liver cancer and why is raising awareness so important?

Q2: What are the risk factors for liver cancer and why should people with viral hepatitis worry?

Q3: What are some strategies to help prevent viral hepatitis and liver cancer?

Q4: What are the barriers that keep people from getting screened for hepatitis and liver cancer and how can they be addressed?

Q5: What can people living with chronic hepatitis B and C do to protect their liver health and prevent liver cancer?

Q6: Why are some populations more vulnerable to viral hepatitis and liver cancer, and how do we address the disparities?

Q7: What can we do to raise awareness & educate vulnerable communities about viral hepatitis and its link to liver cancer?

Q8: What resources are available to learn more about viral hepatitis and liver cancer?

Co-hosts and special guests for the chat include:

  • Hepatitis B Foundation – @hepbfoundation
  • NASTAD – @NASTAD
  • CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis – @cdchep
  • CDC Cancer – @cdc_cancer
  • Dr. Katherine McGlynn – National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics – @NCIEpiTraining
  • CDC National Prevention Information Network (CDCNPIN) will be moderating the chat – @cdcnpin

Confirmed participants and their handles include:

  • National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable – @NVHR1
  • Hep B United  – @hepbunited
  • Coalition Against Hepatitis For People of African Origin – @CHIPO_HBV
  • Hep B United Philadelphia – @HepBUnitedPhila
  • Liver Cancer Connect – @livercancerconn
  • Hep Free Hawaii – @hepfreehawaii
  • Hep Free NYC – @hepfreenyc

Just getting started with Twitter? Want to know how to join the conversation?  Type #liverchat in the search box of the Twitter application to follow the chat, and click on “Latest”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can prepare your tweets in response to the topics listed above in advance, or you can also tweet on the fly, re-tweet, or Like a tweet from the chat.

The questions are labeled Q1, Q2, etc. so please respond/answer specific question by using A1, A2, etc. in front of your tweets. Remember to include the #liverchat hashtag, which is not case sensitive, in all of your tweets.

If you plan to participate, please contact us at info@hepb.org and we’ll add you to the list of confirmed participants. Let us know if you have any other questions about joining the chat.

Join the Conversation at the Hep B United Summit; Watch Summit Sessions On Facebook Live!

Summit Image FB Insta (1)The annual Hep B United Summit, organized by the Hepatitis B Foundation, convenes in Washington D.C. from Thursday, July 27 through Friday, July 28. National and local coalition partners, experts, stakeholders, and federal partners will meet to discuss how to increase hepatitis B testing and vaccination and improve access to care and treatment for individuals living with hepatitis B.

You can watch many of these important sessions on Facebook Live. You can also follow the conversation at the Summit on Twitter with #Hepbunite!

Facebook Live is live video streaming available to all Pages and profiles on Facebook. Check out the agenda below and go to the HepBUnited Facebook Page to view the live broadcast. The session will be made available following the broadcast for those who are not able to join us live.

Here are the details on the sessions that will be broadcast on Facebook Live:

Day 1 – Thursday July 27:

8:30 – 10:00 AM:  Welcome and Introductions
Tim Block, PhD, President & Co-founder, Hepatitis B Foundation and Baruch S. Blumberg Institute, Chari Cohen DrPH, MPH, Co-Chair, Hep B United and Director of Public Health, Hepatitis B Foundation, Jeff Caballero, MPH, Co-Chair, Hep B United and Executive Director, AAPCHO

10:00 – 10:30 AM:  Time to Eliminate Hepatitis B
Dr. John Ward, Director, CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis 

10:30 -11:15 AM:  #justB Storytelling Campaign Panel: Real People Sharing their Stories of Hepatitis B
Rhea Racho, MPP, Public Health Program and Policy Coordinator, Hepatitis B Foundation and storytellers

11:15 – 12:00 PM: Know Hepatitis B Campaign Updates
Cynthia Jorgenson, DrPH, Team Lead and Sherry Chen, MPH, Health Scientist, Division of Viral Hepatitis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

12:00 – 12:30 PM:  Increasing Community Awareness and Education
Moderator: Catherine Freeland, MPH, Hepatitis B Foundation and Sherry Chen, CDC

3:00 PM – 4:15 PM:  Breakout Session: Increasing Awareness through Media Engagement
Facilitators: Jessie MacDonald, Vice President, Weber Shandwick and Lisa Thong, Account Supervisor, IW Group

4:15 PM – 5:00 PM:  State of Hep B United
National Advisory Committee
–  Strengthening Coalition Partnerships: Sharing Resources and
–  Overcoming Challenges
Kate Moraras, MPH, Director, Hep B United and Sr. Program Director, Hepatitis B Foundation and Catherine Freeland, MPH, Public Health Program Manager, Hepatitis B Foundation

 Day 2 – Friday July 28

11:30 AM:   Hepatitis B CME Provider Education Program
Amy Trang, PhD, Administrator, National Task Force on Hepatitis B
Focus on Asian Pacific Islander Americans

12:45 PM – 1:45 PM:  HBU Mini-Grantee Presentations
Moderator: Catherine Freeland, MPH, Public Health Program Manager, Hepatitis B Foundation

Not able to join the sessions with Facebook Live? Follow the conversation on Twitter using the #Hepbunite hashtag. Follow the events, Retweet and engage with event attendees and help us raise hepatitis B awareness in the U.S. and around the globe.

World Hepatitis Day is July 28th, and this Summit is a terrific opportunity to share with the world what we’re doing to help those living with hepatitis B in our communities. Other popular hashtags for World Hepatitis Day, and to raise hepatitis B awareness, include: #NOhep, #KnowHepB, #WorldHepatitisDay, #WorldHepDay, #WHD2017, #hepatitis, #hepatitisB, #HBV, #hepB, #justB. Connect with, follow and engage with fellow partners on twitter to keep the hep B conversation going during the Hep B United Summit and World Hepatitis Day events, and beyond.

Check out: @AAPCHOtweets, @AAHC_HOPEclinic, @AAHI_Info, @AAPInews, @apcaaz, @APIAHF, @ASIAOHIO, @CBWCHC, @cdchep, @cpacs, @HBIDC, @HepBFoundation, @HepBpolicy, @HepBProject, @HepBUnited, @HepBUnitedPhila, @HepFreeHawaii, @HHS_ViralHep, @MinorityHealth, @njhepb, @NVHR1, @nycHepB, @NYU_CSAAH, @sfhepbfree, @supportichs @wahainitiative @jlccrum

Missing from the list? Contact the foundation at info@hepb.org to be added.

Don’t forget to join the World Hepatitis Alliance  Thunderclap and register your World Hepatitis Day events  prior to World Hepatitis Day. Be sure to participate in the #ShowYourFace campaign.  and tell the world how you’re standing up against viral hepatitis.

Still have questions? Email us at info@hepb.org and we’ll help you get started!

Visit the Hep B United and Hepatitis B Foundation websites for more information about hepatitis B and related programs.

Learn Which Cancer, Arthritis or Asthma Drugs Can Reactivate Hepatitis B – Even If You’ve Cleared the Infection

Courtesy of Pixabay.
Courtesy of Pixabay.

By Christine Kukka

Drugs that suppress your immune system in order to treat cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, COPD and asthma can cause a life-threatening reactivation of your hepatitis B.

This dangerous viral rebound can occur if you are currently infected or even if you cleared the infection and now test negative for the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and positive for the surface antibody (HBsAb).

These drugs weaken the immune system, which allows your infection to rebound with a vengeance, spiking your viral load and causing life-threatening liver damage within weeks of starting chemotherapy or high-dose steroids.

What’s behind this reactivation risk? Think herpes or chicken pox (shingles). You might get rid of the infections and the ugly blisters, but small amounts of virus remain and as we age and our immune systems weaken, they can reappear.

The hepatitis B virus (HBV) behaves similarly. When we lose HBsAg and/or develop surface antibodies, there are still small amounts of HBV lurking in our bodies. When we’re healthy, our immune systems effectively contain these trace amounts of virus, but old age, another serious medical condition or immune-suppressing drugs allow hepatitis B to reactivate.

Today, medical guidelines require doctors to test everyone they plan to treat with any immune-suppressing drugs for the hepatitis B core antibody (HBcAb) so they know who has been infected with hepatitis B. If a patient tests positive, doctors must run more tests to determine what risk the new drug will pose. When a patient is at risk of reactivation, doctors will simultaneously treat them with antivirals (either tenofovir or entecavir) and continue antiviral treatment for six more months after the immune-suppressing therapy ends to prevent reactivation.

U.S. CDC.
U.S. CDC.

This mandatory testing is important because some people don’t know they should tell their doctors about their past infection, and many don’t know they’re infected. Here is what happened to one person who contacted the Hepatitis B Foundation after her doctor failed to test her for hepatitis B:

“I recently had my first dose of chemotherapy and I did not mention (to) my oncologist that I was a carrier of hepatitis B, (because) I knew that it was not active. Then, after a week of chemo, I was really sick and got a high temperature. Then, my blood test came back (indicating) that my hepatitis B was reactivated. My liver doctor gave me medicine (an antiviral) to take to deactivate the virus.”

Her oncologist immediately stopped chemotherapy and monitored her HBV DNA (viral load) and liver enzymes (ALT/SGPT) to make sure the antiviral lowered her viral load before restarting chemotherapy. This example shows why it’s important to tell all doctors, including specialists, about a current or resolved hepatitis B infection. No one wants to be battling cancer and a reactivated hepatitis B infection at the same time.

According to experts, about 4.3 percent of people who have cleared hepatitis B will experience a reactivation when treated with immune-suppressing drugs.

Which drugs reactivate hepatitis B? Below is a summary of drugs that can reactivate your hepatitis B and require monitoring and preventive use of antivirals to reduce reactivation risk, according to American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) guidelines:

High-risk Drugs:

More than 10 percent of people with current or resolved hepatitis B infections will experience a dangerous reactivation if treated with:

  • Rituximab for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, or
  • Ofatumumab for chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Anyone with a current infection (HBsAg positive) treated with the following is also at high risk of reactivation:

  • Anthracycline derivatives (such as doxorubicin, epirubicin) used to treat cancers, including breast or bladder cancer, Kaposi’s sarcoma, lymphoma or acute lymphocytic leukemia, or,
  • Moderate-doses of prednisone/corticosteroids (10 to 20 mg daily) or high doses (more than 20 mg daily or equivalent) for four or more weeks. This steroid is used to treat inflammatory diseases including asthma, COPD, rheumatic disorders, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, MS, tuberculosis, shingles side effects, lupus, poison oak and tuberculosis among others.

Moderate-risk Drugs:

 Anyone with a resolved or current infection treated with the following drugs is at moderate risk of reactivation:

  • Tumor necrosis factor alpha inhibitors, such as etanercept, adalimumab, certolizumab, infliximab, for arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis and asthma;
  • Other cytokine or integrin inhibitors (such as abatacept, ustekinumab, natalizumab, vedolizumab), or
  • Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (such as imatinib, nilotinib)

 Also with a current infection treated is at moderate risk if treated with:

  • Low-dose (less than 10 mg prednisone daily or equivalent) corticosteroids for four or more weeks.

Also, anyone with a resolved infection treated with:

  • Moderate-dose (10—20 mg prednisone daily or equivalent) or high-dose (more than 20 mg prednisone daily or equivalent), or
  • Corticosteroids daily for four or more weeks, or anyone treated with anthracycline derivatives (eg, doxorubicin, epirubicin).

Low-risk Drugs:

Drugs that reactivate hepatitis B in fewer than 1 percent of patients include:

Current or previously-infected people treated with:

  • Traditional immunosuppressive drugs such as azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine or methotrexate, or
  • Intra-articular corticosteroids
  • Any dose of oral corticosteroids daily for a week or less.

Previously-infected patients treated with:

  • Low-dose (less than 10 mg prednisone or equivalent) corticosteroids for four weeks or longer.

To see the entire list of immune-suppressing drugs, read the AGA guidelines.

Hepatitis B reactivation following successful hepatitis C treatment: New antivirals (such as Harvoni), used to cure hepatitis C do not suppress the immune system, but they leave coinfected people at risk of HBV reactivation once the dominant hepatitis C virus disappears. Coinfected patients need to be monitored carefully and treated with antivirals if their HBV rebounds.

The Medical Community Wakes Up to a Dangerous Threat to People with Hepatitis B – Coinfection with Hepatitis D

hep DBy Christine Kukka

In the U.S. and around the world, the medical community is finally acknowledging a hidden threat to people with hepatitis B – a virulent liver coinfection that requires the presence of the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) to survive.
Hepatitis D (Delta), which causes the most severe liver infection known to humans, infects between 15 to 20 million people worldwide and an estimated 20,000 people living with chronic hepatitis B in the U.S.
For years, health officials assumed hepatitis D did not threaten Americans and occurred primarily in Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. However, recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies found 4 to 5 percent of Americans with chronic hepatitis B are also infected with hepatitis D.
As a result of these findings, researchers including Hepatitis B Foundation‘s Medical Director Dr. Robert Gish, are now pushing medical organizations to establish hepatitis D testing and monitoring guidelines so doctors will start testing patients for this dangerous liver disease.
Recently, the foundation sponsored a webinar, attended by dozens of healthcare providers, patients and officials from around the world, in which Dr. Gish outlined whom should be tested for hepatitis D, and how it should be treated. A new webinar that examines hepatitis D prevalence in the U.S. is scheduled for 3 p.m. (EST), Wednesday, June 28. To register for the webinar click here.
How do people get infected with hepatitis D? Infection occurs when people are exposed to blood and body fluids from someone with an active hepatitis D infection. Basically, they get both hepatitis B and D in one exposure. This is called an acute coinfection. Some healthy adults are able to clear both infections, but they often experience serious liver damage during the clearance or recovery phase.

Another way to become infected is if someone infected with chronic hepatitis B is exposed to someone with hepatitis D. This is called a superinfection, and in 90 percent of cases, people with chronic hepatitis B will also develop chronic hepatitis D.

Who is at risk of hepatitis D? Anyone with chronic hepatitis B who themselves or their family comes from Sub-Saharan Africa, China, Russia, Middle East, Mongolia, Romania, Georgia, Turkey, Pakistan and the Amazonian River Basin should be tested. Hepatitis D rates in some of these countries can reach up to 30 percent in people infected with chronic hepatitis B.

Banner CurveWhat medical conditions suggest hepatitis D? Anyone with chronic hepatitis B who is not responding to antiviral treatment, or who has signs of liver damage even though they have a low viral load (HBV DNA below 2,000 IU/mL) should be tested. Fatty liver disease (caused by obesity) and liver damage from alcohol or environmental toxins should be ruled out before testing for hepatitis D.
Often, people with hepatitis D have low viral loads (even if they are hepatitis B “e” antigen HBeAg-positive), but they have signs of liver damage, including elevated liver enzyme (ALT/SGPT) levels.

Do hepatitis B antivirals work against hepatitis D? No. The hepatitis D virus (HDV) is structurally different from the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and does not respond to tenofovir and entecavir used to treat hepatitis B. Hepatitis B antivirals will lower HBV DNA, but they don’t reduce HBsAg, which HDV need to thrive and reproduce.

How is hepatitis D treated? The only proven hepatitis D treatment is pegylated interferon. Interferon cures hepatitis D 15 to 25 percent of the time after one year of treatment. Once interferon clears hepatitis D, doctors treat patients who continue to be infected with HBV with antivirals. There are dozens of research companies now looking into hepatitis D treatment, and if researchers can find a cure for hepatitis B that eradicates HBsAg, it will also be effective against hepatitis D.

How should people with hepatitis D be monitored? According to Dr. Gish, doctors should:

  • Monitor patients’ ALT/SGPT and liver function at least every six months
  • Perform an ultrasound of the liver and conduct a liver cancer biomarker panel (including AFP, AFPL3% and DCP) every six months;
  • And, perform viral load (HBV DNA) and HDV RNA testing every six months.

How is hepatitis D prevented? The hepatitis B vaccine prevents hepatitis D infection, as does use of safe sex and safe injection practices. According to Dr. Gish, all hepatitis B-positive pregnant women should be tested for hepatitis D if they or their families are from a country with high rates of hepatitis D, or if they have signs of liver damage — even if they do not come from a region with high hepatitis D rates.

If a pregnant woman is infected with either hepatitis B and/or hepatitis D, immunizing her newborn with the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine within 12 hours of birth and giving the baby a dose of HBIG (hepatitis B antibodies) will prevent both infections.

Bottom line, if you are infected with chronic hepatitis B, you should be tested for hepatitis D if:

  • You or your family comes from a region with high rates of hepatitis D; and/or
  • You have a low viral load, but you continue to have signs of liver damage, indicated by elevated ALT/SGPT or an ultrasound exam of your liver, if your doctor has ruled out fatty liver, NASH or alcohol-related liver damage.

Talk to your doctor about getting tested. Click here for a hepatitis D fact sheet to give to your doctor and click here for a patient-oriented fact sheet. An affordable hepatitis D test has recently become available in the U.S. For more information, click here.

  • Find answers to frequently-asked-questions about hepatitis D here.
  • To watch the webinar featuring Dr. Gish discussing the hidden, hepatitis D epidemic, click here.