Hepatitis Can’t Wait: Teachings From COVID-19 To Combat Hepatitis B and C Viruses

The rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been aided by our efforts to understand other pathogens such as hepatitis viruses, and in turn, there are lessons learned from SARS-CoV-2 to combat the viral hepatitis pandemic. 

Thus far, we have diagnosed only about 10% of people living with hepatitis B and 21% of people living with hepatitis C. Globally, there are over 300 million people living with viral hepatitis, which if left untreated can progress to liver cancer and liver failure. As such, the theme of World Hepatitis Day 2021 is “Hepatitis Can’t Wait”. This theme highlights the urgency of increasing testing capacity to identify the majority of people infected with viral hepatitis and link them to care.

In the past year, the rapid development of diagnostic tools, vaccine platforms and antiviral discovery for COVID-19 has been aided by the lessons learned from the viral hepatitis pandemic. The World Health Organization has set an ambitious goal to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. However, this goal will be difficult to meet until we are able to scale up testing, develop a vaccine for hepatitis C and a cure for hepatitis B. To achieve this goal, we can use the momentum gained in controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and apply it to viral hepatitis.

Written by the CanHepC trainees 2021-22. To read their open letter click here.