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Category Archives: HDV

Recent Roundtable Discussion Highlights Hepatitis Delta Virus

April 21st and 22nd, 2022 marked the occurrence of a roundtable meeting solely focused on hepatitis delta virus (HDV), which was jointly hosted by the American Liver Foundation and the Hepatitis B Foundation. This was one in a series of events taking place this year to raise the profile of hepatitis delta, a serious coinfection of hepatitis B virus (HBV) that is estimated to affect between 5 and 10% of people who are living with HBV. HDV is more severe than HBV alone, with a 70% chance of developing into cirrhosis or liver cancer if unmanaged, compared to an approximately 25% chance for those living with HBV alone. With approval of the first official treatment for hepatitis delta in Europe in July of 2020, expected approval in the United States later in 2022, and other treatments moving through the clinical trial pipeline, more is happening in the world of hepatitis delta than ever before. Despite the promising treatment landscape, the virus still remains significantly under-diagnosed (making estimation of true prevalence difficult), largely due to lack of awareness, low prioritization compared to other health conditions, and limited advocacy, and big questions persist about treatment equity, including access to knowledgeable providers, clinical trials, and available medications. The purpose of this roundtable was to begin a conversation among a diverse group of stakeholders about some of these issues, to bring attention to HDV and its potential consequences, to identify unmet needs in this area, and to prepare calls to action and next steps to address these needs.

Participants at the roundtable included individuals living with hepatitis delta, caregivers, healthcare providers, public health professionals, and representatives from community-based organizations. The conversation was very generative and really underscored some of the key issues that exist around hepatitis delta, including gaps in awareness and knowledge among medical and high-risk communities and limited access to and availability of HDV screening and care. These factors lead to under-diagnosis and under-surveillance, making the production of accurate data difficult, which in turn complicates advocacy efforts, since compelling data is often a key ingredient for policy change that might make screening, treatment, and linkage to care more available and accessible.

The ultimate planned outcome of this virtual event will be production of a white paper that will highlight key takeaways from the discussion, clearly outline unmet needs and priority issues for people living with HDV, and detail calls to action for stakeholders at every level to meet these needs and overcome some of the significant barriers and challenges that persist in diagnosing, managing, and treating HDV.

Another goal of the meeting was to begin to develop resources that can better support and engage the larger community around HDV awareness and advocacy – a first step toward this goal will be creation and dissemination of a visually appealing infographic, which will provide at-a-glance information about HDV and its estimated prevalence, transmission, prevention, testing, and treatment.

The white paper and infographic are expected to be complete by early summer 2022. The organizers of this roundtable meeting are hopeful that its outcomes will bring hepatitis delta virus more into focus for various stakeholder communities and generate more engagement and energy around this dangerous virus that has long been neglected and is not receiving the attention it deserves.

2022 – The Year of Hepatitis Delta

2022 is shaping up to be a big year for hepatitis delta, the rare but serious virus that can co-infect people who are already living with hepatitis B. As a quick refresher, hepatitis delta is a virus that depends upon the hepatitis B virus in order to survive and replicate – so only those who are already living with hepatitis B can become infected with hepatitis delta. Hepatitis delta virus (HDV) is believed to infect between 5 and 10% of people living with hepatitis B virus (HBV). HDV can occur through either a superinfection or a coinfection. A superinfection occurs when someone who is already living with HBV contracts HDV, in which case there is a very high chance that the individual will develop chronic (lifelong) infections of both HBV and HDV. A coinfection occurs when both HBV and HDV are contracted at the same time – when this happens in adults, both infections tend to clear within six months and there is only a 5% chance that chronic HBV and HDV will occur. Chronic HDV is particularly dangerous because it advances progression to serious liver damage and liver failure much more quickly than HBV alone – 70% of people diagnosed with HDV and HBV will experience serious liver damage within 10 years without intervention, compared to 15-30% of people diagnosed with HBV alone.

So, What’s Happening in the World of Hepatitis Delta?

The past 18 months have been very important for hepatitis delta research and drug development. In July of 2020, the European Medicines Agency approved Hepcludex, the first-ever drug approved for treatment of hepatitis delta, for prescription in France, Austria, and Germany. Hepcludex works by stopping HDV from entering and infecting liver cells (and is known as an entry inhibitor). In 2021, MYR Pharma, the German company that originally developed Hepcludex, was bought by Gilead Sciences, Inc., which is based in the United States, and which has since filed a Biologics Licensing Agreement for approval of Hepcludex by the US Food and Drug Administration, which is expected later this year. At this time, there is not a timeline for when Hepcludex approval will be expanded to more countries and parts of the world. Prior to Hepcludex, the only drug available for hepatitis delta management, which was never officially approved, was called pegylated interferon alpha. This drug, still in use today, is only effective in controlling HDV in about 25% of people living with the virus and has challenging side effects that can negatively impact quality of life.

In addition to Hepcludex, two other promising drugs are in clinical trials, both developed by Eiger BioPharma in the United States. The first of these is called Lonafarnib, which is being evaluated for how well it works to target the protein assembly process, which keeps new viruses from being created (it is known as a prenylation inhibitor). Lonafarnib, in combination with another drug called Ritonavir, is currently in Phase III clinical trials (the phase in which the safety and effectiveness of a drug is compared to that of currently available treatments). These trials are fully enrolled, and data is expected by the end of 2022. Additionally, Eiger is currently enrolling phase III clinical trials for Pegylated Interferon Lambda, which works by stimulating the body’s own immune system to fight the virus. For a full list of drugs under investigation for hepatitis delta, including one from Janssen Research and Development and one from Antios Therapeutics, visit our Drug Watch page.

Are There Other Clinical Trials Happening for Hepatitis Delta?

 Yes! There are clinical trials happening worldwide to test many of the drugs listed above and more. You can check out our clinical trials page here. This page includes a detailed description of each clinical trial, along with information about where it is being conducted and how to contact the principal investigator (or person leading the clinical trial). This page also includes a helpful graphic describing the clinical trial process and what it takes for a drug to move from an idea into the real world. It is important to note that not all of the trials listed here are for the purpose of testing a medication – some are observational studies to monitor what are called disease biomarkers, which are physical measures used to monitor the progress of a disease and could include tests of blood or liver function, for example. Clinical trials are currently happening in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam.

When Will HDV Drugs and Clinical Trials Be More Accessible in More Parts of the World?

 This is unfortunately a difficult question to answer. Even though up to 10% of people who are living with hepatitis B are also living with hepatitis delta, there are not good systems in place to make sure that everyone who is living with HBV or who is at increased risk for HDV is tested and diagnosed, so there are not very accurate numbers about how many people in the world are living with HDV. Indeed, of the nearly 300 million people around the world who are living with hepatitis B alone, only 10% are aware of their diagnosis, so this number is undoubtedly far lower than even 10% for hepatitis delta. Without accurate information about how many people are living with the virus, it is difficult for drug and clinical trial developers to invest resources into studying or pursuing drug development or clinical trials for HDV.

Another problem is the many resources of time, money, and labor that are necessary for developing drugs, and preparing and running clinical trials. The development process for a single drug can take anywhere from 5-15 years and a much larger number of drugs fail to complete this process than succeed. Additionally, there needs to be some degree of existing infrastructure in a particular country in order to both support a clinical trial and ultimately to get a drug approved. Unfortunately, this kind of infrastructure is generally already established and easier to navigate in wealthier countries, so these are the countries in which clinical trials are generally held and in which drug approvals tend to happen first. Public health and clinical infrastructure is slowly developing and becoming more prioritized in different parts of the world and hopefully this trend will continue, but for the time being, the locations of clinical trials and approvals for important treatments point to the much larger issues of lack of access to health and healthcare in much of the world, that in turn stem from deep-seated poverty and inequity. Again, as health equity continues to be a focus of the public eye, these trends will hopefully begin to change, paving the way for greater access to healthcare for hepatitis delta, hepatitis B, and countless other health conditions.

What Is Hep Delta Connect’s Role?

 This year, Hep Delta Connect will continue its work to raise the profile of hepatitis delta, both in the United States and around the world. We are committed to building awareness through partnerships with community-based organizations, healthcare providers, and governmental agencies around the world and through dissemination of educational materials and programming. We hope to foster greater engagement of those living with and affected by hepatitis delta globally, more focused advocacy efforts to bring HDV into the spotlight, and increased screening, diagnosis, and management of HDV. We keep our website and social media channels updated regularly with program news and events – make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and check out our website frequently! You are always welcome to connect with us anytime at connect@hepdconnect.org. We look forward to an exciting year of work on HDV!

Hepatitis B and Hepatitis Delta

 

What is Hepatitis Delta

Hepatitis delta is a liver infection that results from the hepatitis delta virus (also known as HDV) that causes the most severe form of viral hepatitis known to human beings. It is also the smallest virus known to infect humans. Hepatitis delta is unique because it is dependent on the hepatitis B virus (HBV) to infect and reproduce in liver cells, so those already infected with hepatitis B are at a greatly increased risk of developing hepatitis delta.

Since testing for hepatitis delta is not as widespread as it should be (everyone who is diagnosed with hepatitis B should also be tested for hepatitis delta), the exact number of people living with hepatitis delta is unknown. Some reports point to 15-20 million people living with hepatitis delta worldwide, but other studies have estimated that as many as 60-70 million people could be living with hepatitis delta around the world.

Co-Infection with Hepatitis B

Co-infection with hepatitis B and hepatitis delta can cause more serious liver disease than hepatitis B infection alone. This includes faster progression to liver fibrosis (or scarring), higher risk of liver cancer, and earlier onset of cirrhosis or liver failure.

There are two ways in which someone living with hepatitis B can become infected with hepatitis delta. One is through co-infection, which occurs when an individual acquires hepatitis B and hepatitis delta infections at the same time, and the other is through super-infection, which occurs when someone who is already living with hepatitis B acquires hepatitis delta.

A co-infection is less common and will often clear up on its own within six months, but sometimes it can cause very dangerous or fatal liver failure. A superinfection is more common and is the culprit of severe liver disease. As many as 90% of people with a superinfection will develop chronic (life-long) hepatitis B and hepatitis delta infections, 70% of which will progress to cirrhosis. This compares to only 15-20% of chronic hepatitis B infections alone.

Transmission and Prevention

Hepatitis delta can be transmitted in the same ways as hepatitis B, through exposure to infected blood or bodily fluids. This occurs most often through the sharing of hygiene equipment; practices of bodily alterations, such as tattoos, piercings or scarification; unsterile healthcare practices; sharing needles, syringes, or other paraphernalia during injection drug use; or having unprotected sex. Although hepatitis B virus is most commonly transmitted from mothers to their babies during childbirth, it is believed that hepatitis delta transmission through this route is uncommon. Since hepatitis delta cannot be contracted on its own, only people who are already infected with hepatitis B or who are at high risk of contracting both viruses simultaneously can contract hepatitis delta.

A vaccine for hepatitis delta does not exist, but fortunately, the vaccine for hepatitis B protects against hepatitis delta as well! Just as with hepatitis B, family members and sexual partners of people living with hepatitis delta should also receive the hepatitis B vaccine to significantly lower their risk of contracting hepatitis B and hepatitis delta. For those who are already infected with chronic hepatitis B, the best way to protect yourself from hepatitis delta is to practice protected sex (with a condom) and avoid potential blood exposure.

All individuals who have been diagnosed with hepatitis B should also get tested for hepatitis delta. The test is a simple blood test. Hepatitis delta can be managed by a doctor – it is most dangerous when a person does not know they have it, making it that much more important to get tested!

 Who is at Risk

If you are living with chronic hepatitis B, you are at risk for hepatitis Delta. Groups at risk for hepatitis delta include:

  • People chronically infected with hepatitis B are at risk for infection with HDV.
  • People who are not vaccinated for hepatitis B
  • People who inject drugs
  • Indigenous people and people with hepatitis C virus or HIV infection
  • Recipients of hemodialysis
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Commercial sex workers
  • Individuals from countries or regions where hepatitis delta prevalence is high

Several geographical hotspots have a high prevalence of hepatitis delta infection, including Mongolia, the Republic of Moldova, and countries in Western and Middle Africa.

For Patients

If you are living with hepatitis B, it is recommended you get tested for hepatitis delta. Please ask your healthcare providers to be tested for hepatitis delta.

The Hepatitis B Foundation has resources for patients living with hepatitis delta.

Drug Watch – Drugs and Medications in Development for Hepatitis Delta

Clinical Trials – Clinical trials are research studies that test new potential treatments for a disease. Talk to your doctor about possible clinical trials that could be helpful to you.

Find a Doctor – Visit our Physician Directory to locate a doctor near you! It now includes a specific search tool to locate doctors that also manage hepatitis delta patients. For additional assistance locating a doctor, email connect@hepdconnect.org.

Other educational resources include webinar recordings, multilingual fact sheets, and frequently asked questions.

For Providers

Providers in the United States can request hepatitis Delta tests from Quest Diagnostics. It is recommended that you first call your local Quest representative to confirm that the location does this specialty testing.

Below is the coding list for hepatitis delta testing as well as quantitative HBsAg and hepatitis B genotyping.

  • Quest Test Code for HDV Antibody Total—4990 Set up 2 times/week
  • Quest Test Code for HDV Antibody IgM—35664 Set up 2 times/week
  • Quest Test Code for HDV RNA Quantitative PCR—37889 Set up 6 times/week

Quest does not currently offer a national test code for hepatitis delta antibody reflex to HDV RNA quantitative, but you can coordinate with the Quest commercial person that covers your account to possibly set up a custom reflex.

 

Authors: Beatrice Zovich and Evangeline Wang

Contact Information: info@hepb.org

 

 

Eiger Presents Clinical Trial Results at The Liver Meeting Digital Experience™ 2020

By Beatrice Zovich

The 2020 meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) in November offered the opportunity for scientists from industry and academia to present their findings from clinical trials, studying new medications for hepatitis B and D. Two such presentations were given by Eiger BioPharmaceuticals, Inc. who presented their findings about how well their medications peginterferon lambda and lonafarnib work, both independently and in combination, to treat hepatitis delta virus (HDV) and halt liver fibrosis. The results are promising and offer hope for those affected by HDV.

The two medicines under investigation in these studies work in different ways. Lonafarnib works by blocking farnesyl transferase, an enzyme involved in prenylation, the modification of proteins that is necessary for the life cycle of HDV. Peginterferon lambda, on the other hand, triggers immune responses that are crucial for host protection during viral infections. Lambda can also target liver cells accurately, thus reducing the effects of inadvertently targeting central nervous system cells and making it more tolerable to those taking it (Eiger, 2020).

Eiger’s first study examined how well peginterferon lambda and lonafarnib (known as LIFT – Lambda InterFeron combo Therapy) work together to lower levels of HDV RNA, 24 weeks post-treatment (Eiger, 2020). This was a Phase 2 study. Lambda was administered at a dosage of 180 mcg once weekly, in combination with 50 mg of Lonafarnib and 100 mg of ritonavir given twice daily, for 24 weeks. The results of this study found that 77% of the 26 participants saw their HDV RNA levels decline and reach a level that was either undetectable or below the level of quantification. 23% of these participants were able to maintain these levels for 24 weeks after treatment had ended. Both tenofovir and entecavir were started prior to treatment for management of HBV. The observed side effects of this regimen were mild to moderate and included mostly gastrointestinal issues or were related to blood chemistry (Eiger, 2020).

The second study found that peginterferon lambda caused the regression of liver fibrosis after 48 weeks of treatment in people living with hepatitis delta. Two case studies emerged from the completed Phase 2 LIMT (Lambda Interferon MonoTherapy) study (Eiger, 2020). In these studies, a total of 33 participants received either 180 µg or 120 µg of lambda subcutaneous injections weekly for 48 weeks. Results indicated that degrees of liver fibrosis and levels of HDV RNA declined below the level of quantification in some participants, even after 72 weeks in a handful of cases. In some instances, ALT levels decreased as well. Side effects were found to be mild to moderate and fewer than those experienced by participants who had taken peginterferon alpha in the past. Side effects were primarily flu-like in nature (Eiger, 2020). 

Therapies for hepatitis B and D will only continue to improve and become more precise and targeted as time goes by. Check out the Hepatitis Delta Connect website for detailed information on HDV, as well as current clinical trials and a drug watch page, both of which are updated regularly. (A brand-new clinical trial has just been added!) For more information about Eiger BioPharmaceuticals, click here

References

Eiger BioPharmaceuticals, Inc. (2020, November 17). Eiger Announces Positive Peginterferon Lambda – Lonafarnib Combination End of Study Results from Phase 2 LIFT HDV Study in Late-Breaker Session at The Liver Meeting Digital Experience™ 2020. Retrieved December 30, 2020, from https://www.biospace.com/article/releases/eiger-announces-positive-peginterferon-lambda-lonafarnib-combination-end-of-study-results-from-phase-2-lift-hdv-study-in-late-breaker-session-at-the-liver-meeting-digital-experience-2020/

Eiger BioPharmaceuticals, I. (2020, November 16). Eiger Announces Case Studies Demonstrating Regression of Liver Fibrosis Following 48 Weeks of Therapy with Peginterferon Lambda in Patients with Chronic Hepatitis Delta Virus (HDV) Infection Presented at The Liver Meeting Digital Experience™ 2020. Retrieved December 30, 2020, from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/eiger-announces-case-studies-demonstrating-regression-of-liver-fibrosis-following-48-weeks-of-therapy-with-peginterferon-lambda-in-patients-with-chronic-hepatitis-delta-virus-hdv-infection-presented-at-the-liver-meeting-digital–301173992.html 

New Hepatitis Delta Treatment Approved by European Commission

New Drug Approved for Treatment of Hepatitis Delta in Europe

A new drug to treat hepatitis delta has now been approved by the European Commission! The drug is called bulevirtide and will be marketed under the brand name Hepcludex. It was previously known at Myrcludex B. This approval follows a quarter century of research and development and is the first drug specifically for hepatitis delta approved in Europe. Due to the high prevalence of the hepatitis delta virus in Russia and the former Soviet Union, it has been approved for use there since the end of 2019, under the name Myrcludex. The European Medicines Agency recommended the drug for approval by the Commission at the end of May 2020 (German Center for Infection Research, 2020).

How Does It Work?

Hepcludex, developed by university researchers in Heidelberg, Germany, works as an entry inhibitor – that is, it prevents hepatitis delta virus (HDV) cells, and the hepatitis B virus (HBV) cells upon which HDV depends, from entering healthy liver cells. Both HDV and HBV cells are able to replicate and thrive exclusively in the liver because they need the bile acid transporter NTCP in order to do so. This transporter is the avenue through which HDV is received into the liver cell. Hepcludex works by blocking this reception process, so that the virus does not continue to infect healthy liver cells (German Center for Infection Research, 2020). The currently infected cells either die or are destroyed by the immune system.

How Have People Responded?

Hepcludex is an injectable medication given daily for 48 weeks. In phase I and II clinical trials, people seemed to respond well to this treatment. It seems that just a small amount of Hepcludex is needed, which is good news because it means that the normal processes of the bile salt transporter (NTCP – the receptor of the hepatitis delta virus) will not be widely disrupted (German Center for Infection Research, 2020). MYR Pharmaceuticals GmbH, which now has the license for Hepcludex, is currently in the process of running further phase II and larger phase III trials, in order to continue to determine long-term effects. Hepcludex has also been tested in combination therapy with PEG Interferon, which is administered weekly also via injection (Highleyman, 2019).

Does it also work for Hep B?

Right now, Hepcludex has been tested and works to treat people with hepatitis delta. Since hepatitis delta becomes the dominant virus in those co-infected with hepatitis B and hepatitis delta, clearing hep delta will not necessarily clear hep B as well. However, the curative properties of this drug for those only affected with hep B are being investigated, both alone and in combination with PEG interferon, and there was a loss of surface antigen (HbsAg) noted in 20% of clinical trial participants who were given this combination (Highleyman, 2019).

What does this mean for patients?

Research thus far indicates that Hepcludex can be more effective than interferon alone, the existing hepatitis delta treatment, which is usually not curative and has challenging side effects (Smith, 2020). Hepcludex is now available for prescription in Europe, although pricing schemes remain unclear. For updated information on pricing and availability, check with your doctor or visit the MYR Pharmaceuticals website here.

Clinical trials will continue to take place for this and other drugs. Researchers and pharmaceutical companies might experience difficulty in recruiting patients for hepatitis delta clinical trials because of a lack of awareness and testing – many people living with hepatitis delta worldwide remain undiagnosed. It is important for people at risk for hepatitis delta to be tested and linked to care if found to be infected. If you have hepatitis delta and are interested in participating in a clinical trial, you can search for one near you. To find a doctor to talk to about getting tested for hepatitis delta if you are living with hep B, click here. Hepatitis delta can often be managed and treated, and you are not alone! The most important first step is to know your status.

What does this mean for providers?

The exact number of people living with hepatitis delta around the world is unknown and estimates range anywhere from 20-70 million. Most of these individuals remain undiagnosed due in large part to a lack of testing and diagnostics. Stephan Urban, one of the researchers leading the effort in the development of Hepcludex has said that, in the United States, fewer than 5% of those tested for hepatitis B are also tested for hepatitis delta (Smith, 2020). It is true that in much of the world diagnostic tools remain unaffordable and so Dr. Urban and his team are developing a much less expensive and rapid test. If the capacity exists, however, testing is crucial for the management of this most severe form of viral hepatitis and all of the subsequent liver conditions that can develop from it. Additionally, as with all infectious diseases, vaccination of ALL people to prevent hepatitis B is critical. Click here for more information on hepatitis delta in general and here for questions and concerns.

References

German Center for Infection Research. (2020, August 5). First drug for hepatitis D has been approved by European Commission. EurekAlert! https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-08/gcfi-fdf080520.php

Highleyman, L. (2019, December 16). Combination therapies show promise against hepatitis D. Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://www.worldhepatitisalliance.org/latest-news/infohep/3548132/combination-therapies-show-promise-against-hepatitis-d

Smith, J. (2020, August 20). Is Hepatitis D Healthcare Being Overlooked? LabioTech https://www.labiotech.eu/medical/hepatitis-d-ema-approval/

Know Your ABCs

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver which can be caused by infectious diseases, toxins (drugs and alcohol), and autoimmune diseases. The most common forms of viral hepatitis are A, B, C, D, and E. With 5 different types of hepatitis, it can be confusing to know the differences among them all.

The Differences

While all 5 hepatitis viruses can cause liver damage, they vary in modes of transmission, type of infection, prevention, and treatment.

Hepatitis A (HAV) is highly contagious and spread through fecal-oral transmission or consuming contaminated food or water1. This means that if someone is infected with hepatitis A they can transmit it through preparing and serving food and using the same utensils without first thoroughly washing their hands. Symptoms of HAV include jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), loss of appetite, nausea, fever, abnormally colored stool and urine, fever, joint pain, and fatigue1. Sometimes these symptoms do not present themselves in an infected person which can be harmful because they can unknowingly spread the virus to other people. Most people who get HAV will feel sick for a short period of time and will recover without any lasting liver damage2. A lot of hepatitis A cases are mild, but in some instances, hepatitis A can cause severe liver damage. Hepatitis A is vaccine preventable and the vaccine is recommended for people living with hepatitis B and C. Read this blog post for a detailed comparison of hepatitis B and hepatitis A!

Hepatitis B (HBV) is transmitted through bodily fluids like blood and semen, by unsterile needles and medical/dental equipment and procedures, or from mother-to-child during delivery1. HBV is considered a “silent epidemic” because most people do not present with symptoms when first infected. This can be harmful to individuals because HBV can cause severe liver damage, including cirrhosis and liver cancer if not properly managed over time3. Hepatitis B can either be an acute or chronic infection meaning some cases last about 6 months while other cases last for a lifetime. In some instances, mostly among people who are infected as babies and young children, acute HBV cases can progress to a chronic infection3. Greater than 90% of babies and up to 50% of young children will develop lifelong infection with hepatitis B if they are infected at a young age.

Hepatitis C (HCV) is similarly transmitted like HBV through bodily fluids, like blood and semen, and by unsterile needles and medical/dental equipment and procedures. Symptoms of HCV are generally similar to HAV’s symptoms of fever, fatigue, jaundice, and abnormal coloring of stool and urine1, though symptoms of HCV usually do not appear until an infected individual has advanced liver disease. Acute infections of hepatitis C can lead to chronic infections which can lead to health complications like cirrhosis and liver cancer1. Read this blog for a detailed comparison of hepatitis B and hepatitis C!

Hepatitis Delta (HDV) infections only occur in persons who are also infected with hepatitis B1,3. Hepatitis Delta is spread through the transfer of bodily fluids from an infected person to a non-infected person. Similar to some other hepatitis viruses, hepatitis Delta can start as an acute infection that can progress to a chronic one. HDV is dependent on the hepatitis B virus to reproduce3. This coinfection is more dangerous than a single infection because it causes rapid damage to the liver which can result in fatal liver failure. Find out more about hepatitis B and hepatitis Delta coinfection here!

Hepatitis E (HEV) is similar to hepatitis A as it is spread by fecal-oral transmission and consumption of contaminated food and water1. It can be transmitted in undercooked pork, game meat and shellfish. HEV is common in developing countries where people don’t always have access to clean water. Symptoms of hepatitis E include fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach pain, jaundice, and nausea. Talk to your doctor if you are a pregnant woman with symptoms as a more severe HEV infection can occur. Many individuals do not show symptoms of hepatitis E infection1. Additionally, most individuals recover from HEV, and it rarely progresses to chronic infection. Read this blog for a detailed comparison of hepatitis B and hepatitis E!

Here is a simple table to further help you understand the differences among hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.

Prevention

Fortunately, hepatitis viruses are preventable.

Hepatitis A is preventable through a safe and effective vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that children be vaccinated for HAV at 12-23 months or at 2-18 years of age for those who have not previously been vaccinated. The vaccine is given as two doses over a 6-month span1. This vaccine is recommended for all people living with hepatitis B & C infections

Hepatitis B is also preventable through a safe and effective vaccine. The vaccine includes 3 doses over a period of 6 months, and in the U.S. there is a 2-dose vaccine that can be completed in 1-month1,3. Read more here, if you would like to know more about the vaccine series schedule.

Hepatitis C does not have a vaccine, however, the best way to prevent HCV is by avoiding risky behaviors like injecting drugs and promoting harm reduction practices. While there is no vaccine, curative treatments are available for HCV1.

Hepatitis Delta does not have a vaccine, but you can prevent it through vaccination for hepatitis B1,3.

Hepatitis E does not have a vaccine available in the United States. However, there has been a vaccine developed and licensed in China1,2.

 

References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/index.htm
  2. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/what-is-hepatitis
  3. https://www.hepb.org/what-is-hepatitis-b/the-abcs-of-viral-hepatitis/

 

Does Hepatitis Delta Increase My Risk for Liver Cancer?

 

 

 

 

 

The short answer is, possibly.  Although there is extensive research to support the role of hepatitis delta in accelerating the risk for progression to cirrhosis (liver scarring) compared to hepatitis B infection (1,2) only, strong data directly linking an increase in risk for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is lacking. It is known that coinfection promotes continually progressing inflammation within the liver by inducing a strong immune response within the body; where it essentially attacks itself (3), but the specific role of hepatitis delta in HCC isn’t fully understood. It gets complicated because although cirrhosis is usually present in hepatitis B patients who also have HCC, but scientists have not pinpointed a specific way that the virus may impact cancer development (4). There have been some small studies that have documented a correlation between hepatitis delta and an increase in HCC, but some analysis’s have even called the extent of its involvement in HCC as ‘controversial’ (5). However, other scientific studies may suggest the contrary.

Because hepatitis delta cannot survive without hepatitis B, and doesn’t integrate into the body the same way, it may not be directly responsible for cancer development, but it has been suggested that the interactions between the two viruses may play a role (6). It has also been suggested that hepatitis delta may play a role in genetic changes, DNA damage, immune response and the activation of certain proteins within the body – similarly to hepatitis B and may amplify the overall cancer risk (7,8). One of these theories even suggests that hepatitis delta inactivates a gene responsible for tumor suppression, meaning it may actually promotes tumor development, a process that has been well-documented in HCC cases (9,10).

Regardless of the specific impact or increase in risk for HCC due to the hepatitis delta virus, hepatitis B is known to increase someone’s risk, with 50-60% of all HCC globally attributable to hepatitis B (11). People with hepatitis delta coinfection still need to be closely monitored by a liver specialist, as 70% of people with both viruses will develop cirrhosis within 5-10 years (12). Monitoring may be blood testing and a liver ultrasound to screen for HCC every 6 months. Closer monitoring may be required if cirrhosis is already present, or to monitor response to treatment (interferon).

For more information about hepatitis delta, visit www.hepdconnect.org.

References:

  1. Manesis EK, Vourli G, Dalekos G. Prevalence and clinical course of hepatitis delta infection in Greece: A 13-year prospective study. J Hepatol. 2013;59:949–956.
  2. Coghill S, McNamara J, Woods M, Hajkowicz K. Epidemiology and clinical outcomes of hepatitis delta (D) virus infection in Queensland, Australia. Int J Infect Dis. 2018;74:123–127.
  3. Zhang Z, Filzmayer C, Ni Y. Hepatitis D virus replication is sensed by MDA5 and induces IFN-β/λ responses in hepatocytes. J Hepatol. 2018;69:25–35.
  4. Nault JC. Pathogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma according to aetiology. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2014;28:937–947.
  5. Puigvehí, M., Moctezuma-Velázquez, C., Villanueva, A., & Llovet, J. M. (2019). The oncogenic role of hepatitis delta virus in hepatocellular carcinoma. JHEP reports: innovation in hepatology, 1(2), 120–130.
  6. Romeo R, Petruzziello A, Pecheur EI, et al. Hepatitis delta virus and hepatocellular carcinoma: an update. Epidemiol Infect. 2018;146(13):1612‐1618.
  7. Majumdar A, Curley SA, Wu X. Hepatic stem cells and transforming growth factor β in hepatocellular carcinoma. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012;9:530–538.
  8. Mendes M, Pérez-Hernandez D, Vázquez J, Coelho AV, Cunha C. Proteomic changes in HEK-293 cells induced by hepatitis delta virus replication. J Proteomics. 2013;89:24–38.
  9. Chen M, Du D, Zheng W. Small Hepatitis Delta Antigen Selectively Binds to Target mRNA in Hepatic Cells: A Potential Mechanism by Which Hepatitis D Virus Down-Regulates Glutathione S-Transferase P1 and Induces Liver Injury and Hepatocarcinogenesis. Biochem Cell Biol. August 2018.
  10. Villanueva A, Portela A, Sayols S. DNA methylation-based prognosis and epidrivers in hepatocellular carcinoma. 2015;61:1945–1956.
  11. Hayashi PH, Di Bisceglie AM. The progression of hepatitis B- and C-infections to chronic liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma: epidemiology and pathogenesis. Med Clin North Am. 2005;89(2):371‐389.
  12. Abbas, Z., Abbas, M., Abbas, S., & Shazi, L. (2015). Hepatitis D and hepatocellular carcinoma. World journal of hepatology, 7(5), 777–786.

 

Spotlight on Hepatitis Delta: Renewed Scientific Interest Paves the Way for New Data and Treatments

 

For decades, hepatitis delta, the dangerous coinfection of hepatitis B, was thought to only affect about 5-10% of the estimated 292 million people worldwide with chronic hepatitis B infections. With limited data and funding for research related to this complicated virus, true prevalence data, diagnostic tools and skilled physicians to manage hepatitis B and delta coinfection have remained limited until recent years. Publications in 2019 by Miao, et al., Chen, et al., Shen, et al., are helping to reveal a possibly more accurate picture of the burden of coinfection, conducting meta-analyses comprising data from hundreds of thousands of hepatitis B patients and the general population. While it was previously thought that 15-20 million coinfections existed globally, this new research has suggested there may be between 48-74 million1,2,3. Although these studies analyzed data that classified the presence of hepatitis delta antibodies, which can be present in cases of both past or current infection, there is a strong correlation between their presence and likelihood of an ongoing infection. These new studies may place coinfection at upwards of 10-15% of those with hepatitis B, with some of the hardest hit areas facing coinfection rates greater than 30%, in regions like Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Central Latin America and West and Central Africa1,2,3.

 

Understanding hepatitis delta is vital to helping to identify coinfected patients, who require altered treatment and management plans, and who may progress to cirrhosis and/or liver cancer in periods as little as 5-10 years. Diagnosis and management for hepatitis delta is still a challenge in much of the world, but in the US, it is becoming easier than ever before, with Quest Diagnostics, a commercial U.S. lab, rolling out a new HDV RNA test, a game-changer for physicians to easily order the test and manage patients. HDV RNA testing was previously available only through the Utah-based lab, ARUP, and Boston’s Cambridge Biomedical, but had to be specialty ordered. As testing continues to become more widely available and affordable, hepatitis B patients can more easily access testing. The more patients who are diagnosed, the more evidence for the urgent need for improved treatments to combat the virus, which is currently poorly controlled by the only available treatment; pegylated interferon.

Luckily, the virus has attracted the attention of nine pharmaceutical companies from around the world, with each working on a different approach to better controlling, or even curing hepatitis delta. Two of these companies, Eiger Biopharmaceuticals (US) and Myr Pharma (Germany) are now in Phase 3 clinical trials, where patients are flocking to enroll in these trials, which present new opportunities to receive treatments that may be more effective in controlling their coinfection. Eiger’s clinical trials will test their new drug, Lonafarnib, in clinical trial arms with and without pegylated interferon and/or ritonavir, with sites open in many countries throughout the world. Myr’s clinical trial will test their new drug, Myrcludex B, in similar triple-treatment combinations. Their clinical trial sites are now open in Russia, and the drug is already being prescribed for “compassionate use” in France. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even taken notice; issuing guidance for industry on the development of hepatitis delta drugs for treatment in October 2019. This provides a valuable set of standards and expectations for clinical trials in regard to ethics, trial design, and patient needs.

Hepatitis delta coinfection has also received more attention this year at international hepatology conferences such as at the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL)’s International Liver Congress in Vienna, Austria, the International Liver Congress in American Association for the Study of the Liver (AASLD) meeting in Boston, and HEP DART in Hawaii. This year has brought many milestones for hepatitis delta data, diagnostics, and clinical trials. With continued scientific research and interest, Hepatitis Delta Connect hopes to continue to support these milestones and drive awareness efforts.

References:

1. Zhijiang Miao, Shaoshi Zhang, Xumin Ou, Shan Li, Zhongren Ma, Wenshi Wang, Maikel P Peppelenbosch, Jiaye Liu, Qiuwei Pan, Estimating the global prevalence, disease progression and clinical outcome of hepatitis delta virus infection, The Journal of Infectious Diseases, jiz633.

2. Chen H, Shen D, Ji D, et al. Prevalence and burden of hepatitis D virus infection in the global population: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Gut 2019;68:512-521.

3. Shen D, Ji D, Chen H, et al. Hepatitis D: not a rare disease anymore: global update for 2017–2018. Gut Published Online First: 09 April 2019.

Hepatitis B and Delta Coinfection: A Public Health Crisis in Mongolia

 

Mongolia is one of the world’s most sparsely populated countries yet is home to the highest infection rates of hepatitis B and delta coinfection worldwide1. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 5-10% of the nearly 300 million global hepatitis B patients are co-infected with hepatitis delta. Hepatitis delta is the most severe form of viral hepatitis, and greatly increases the risk of cirrhosis, scarring of the liver, and liver cancer; with seven out of 10 patients progressing within 10 years 4. In Mongolia, 70% of hepatitis B patients are coinfected with hepatitis delta, and the country is known for having the highest rates of liver cancer on the planet2,3. These statistics are startling and highlight a public health crisis for Mongolia, where most families have at least one family member affected 2.

How are people getting infected?

Historically, healthcare-related exposures are suspected to be the biggest risk for contracting hepatitis in Mongolia. Despite the 1993 national policy was set to regulate the multi-use of single-use syringes in healthcare settings, effective sterilization practices, and medical staff training, proper inspections remain an ongoing issue. Healthcare workers themselves are also at risk, with requirements for hepatitis B vaccination set by the Ministry of Health recently in 20145. Although routine infant vaccination for hepatitis B began in 19916, older populations remain at risk or are susceptible to exposures.

Treatment Access

For a nation so widely affected by liver disease, as of 2015, skilled physicians and liver transplant experts are sparse – with only one reported team performing transplants in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city1. Fibroscan, CT scans, and liver biopsies; routine screening tools for liver disease and liver cancer, have only been introduced in recent years, and are still not routinely used for liver cancer screening as recommended by WHO7. This lack of surveillance leaves most patients to endure late diagnoses. Due to the rural landscape, where nearly 30% of the population lives below the poverty line10 and historically nomadic lifestyle accessing care is a challenge. Access to treatment for hepatitis B is additionally a challenge, and traditional medicines might be utilized. Pegylated interferon, the only current and somewhat effective treatment for hepatitis B and delta coinfection, was registered about 10 years ago in Mongolia and is still not covered by its national healthcare system, making it too expensive for most low and middle-income families8. With the help of partnerships, the government has integrated funding for palliative care for liver cancer patients, with most facilities centralized around the capital city7. With a failing insurance system and little government prioritization for prevention and treatment, many are calling on the World Health Organization (WHO), pharmaceutical companies and NGOs to step in to curb the crisis9.

Hope

Mongolia’s crisis has not been left unaddressed. Over the last 10 years, Mongolia’s government has prioritized combatting hepatitis, developing its first viral hepatitis national strategy in 2010, and focusing on prevention, affordable treatment, and public awareness programs. Admirably, coverage under the national insurance plan for antivirals began in 2016, greatly subsidizing the cost of hepatitis B treatment11. These efforts did not go unnoticed, and in 2018, WHO praised Mongolia’s efforts in moving towards the elimination of hepatitis B and C, recognizing its successes in its national program, “Whole-Liver Mongolia”. Another program, “Hepatitis Free Mongolia”, an initiative of the Flagstaff International Relief Effort (FIRE), Flagstaff Rotary Club, Rotary Club of Ulaanbaatar and the WHO, offers free hepatitis education, screening, vaccination and care for those infected. The project also trains healthcare providers and offers free exams, diagnostic services and patient counseling; a vital service for many who may not be able to access or afford these services otherwise. Since 2011, the project, along with FIRE’s Love the Liver program have tested nearly 9,000 people for hepatitis B, screened 6,000 for liver cancer and performed over 3,000 specialist exams, and, in a country of only 3 million people, has made a meaningful impact. The effort is also unofficially supported by Mongolia’s Ministry of Health, who is continually investing in efforts to curb the burden of hepatitis.

References:

1. “Viral Hepatitis in Mongolia: Situation and Response.” World Health Organization, 2015, iris.wpro.who.int/bitstream/handle/10665.1/13069/9789290617396_eng.pdf.

2. “Hepatitis: A Crisis in Mongolia.” World Health Organization, 2017, www.who.int/westernpacific/news/feature-stories/detail/hepatitis-a-crisis-in-mongolia.

3. Rizzetto, Mario. (2016). The adventure of delta. Liver International. 36. 135-140. 10.1111/liv.13018.

4. Abbas, Z., Abbas, M., Abbas, S., & Shazi, L. (2015). Hepatitis D and hepatocellular carcinoma. World journal of hepatology, 7(5), 777–786.

5. Baatarkhuu, Oidov & Uugantsetseg, G & Munkh-Orshikh, D & Naranzul, N & Badamjav, S & Tserendagva, Dalkh & Amarsanaa, J & Young, Kim. (2017). Viral Hepatitis and Liver Diseases in Mongolia. Euroasian Journal of Hepato-Gastroenterology. 7. 68-72. 10.5005/jp-journals-10018-1215.

6. Davaalkham, Dambadarjaa & Ojima, Toshiyuki & Uehara, Ritei & Watanabe, Makoto & Oki, Izumi & Wiersma, Steven & Nymadawa, Pagbajab & Nakamura, Yosikazu. (2007). Impact of the Universal Hepatitis B Immunization Program in Mongolia: Achievements and Challenges. Journal of epidemiology / Japan Epidemiological Association. 17. 69-75. 10.2188/jea.17.69.

7. Alcorn, Ted. (2011). Mongolia’s struggle with liver cancer. Lancet. 377. 1139-40. 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60448-0.

8. “Country Programme on Viral Hepatitis Prevention and Control.” World Health Organization, Western Pacific Region, 2015, www.wpro.who.int/mongolia/mediacentre/releases/20160318_viral_hep_prevention_control/en/.

9. Jazag, A., Puntsagdulam, N., & Chinburen, J. (2012). Status quo of chronic liver diseases, including hepatocellular carcinoma, in Mongolia. The Korean journal of internal medicine, 27(2), 121–127. 10. “Poverty in Mongolia.” Asian Development Bank, 2019, www.adb.org/countries/mongolia/poverty.

11. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on a National Strategy for the Elimination of Hepatitis B and C; Strom BL, Buckley GJ, editors. A National Strategy for the Elimination of Hepatitis B and C: Phase Two Report. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2017 Mar 28. 1, Introduction. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK442230

 

Printable Hepatitis Delta Fact Sheets for At-Risk Populations (Available in 5 Languages!)

 

Hepatitis delta is estimated to affect 15-20 million people globally who are also living with hepatitis B. Hepatitis delta’s geographic distribution is not uniform, and does not always follow regions of highest hepatitis B prevalence. Although more recent data is sparse, regions of higher coinfection are thought to be in Mongolia, Eastern Europe (particularly Romania, Russia, Georgia, Turkey), Pakistan, the Middle East and the Amazonian River Basin. The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) recommends that hepatitis B patients from these areas be tested for hepatitis delta. If you are a community member or community health worker or physician, please utilize our printable fact sheets to help raise awareness about hepatitis B and delta!

Fact sheets are available in 5 languages, including English, Mongolian, Romanian, Russian and Spanish!

English for Patients    English for Providers

Mongolian for Patients   Mongolian for Providers

Romanian for Patients   Romanian for Providers

Russian for Patients   Russian for Providers

Spanish for Patients   Spanish for Providers

For more information on hepatitis B and delta coinfection, visit www.hepdconnect.org or contact us at connect@hepdconnect.org.