The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the collaboration between global health partners to discover a cure for Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) has shown promising results.
In a statement released in Abuja on Friday ahead of the “World Hepatitis Day” celebrated yearly on July 28, WHO said 50 new anti-HBV and hepatitis D virus treatments were currently being investigated.
The organisation said that 17 of these treatments were already undergoing phase II clinical trials.
It said however, that a major challenge in the process was finding an approach which would reach the viral reservoir in the liver, a major factor in finding a cure.
WHO said that while it was not possible for the organisation to give a precise timeline of when a cure would be found, hope of finding one was strong.
According to the organisation, the scientific community, academic and industry alike are clearly racing in the right direction.
“In 2016, global partners joined forces to create the International Coalition to Eliminate Hepatitis B (ICE-HBV) with the aim of fast-tracking the discovery of a cure for HBV. The ICE-HBV formed international working groups comprising more than 50 global scientific leaders in HBV virology, immunology, technology and clinical research.
“The fruits of this partnership are now starting to show. At the International Liver Congress (ILC) in Paris in April 2018, ICE-HBV members reported on encouraging development towards an HBV cure.
“There are now almost 50 new anti-HBV and hepatitis D virus treatments being openly investigated and 17 of these are already undergoing phase II clinical trials.
“While a vaccine to prevent HBV exists, lifelong treatment is needed for those already chronically infected. Treatment helps keep HBV under control but it is not a cure because it cannot completely clear HBV from infected cells. In addition, even with ongoing treatment, people are still at risk of developing liver cancer particularly those with underlying cirrhosis due to chronic HBV,” it said.
The organisation said that HBV continued to take a huge human and economic toll on countries as it affected more people and remained the most deadly type of hepatitis.
It disclosed that HBV caused more than 887,000 deaths every year, while some 257 million people worldwide were chronically infected with HBV.
The organisation said that the disease caused around 40 per cent of all primary liver cancers; the second most deadly cancer.
World Hepatitis Day is commemorated every year to raise global awareness about hepatitis, a group of infectious diseases known as Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E and encourage prevention, diagnosis and treatment.