The 2021 edition of the Mekong Hepatitis Symposium shared the latest advances on chronic hepatitis B and C

The 2021 edition of the Mekong Hepatitis Symposium 'Viral Hepatitis Elimination: Promises & Challenges', was held online on November 26, bringing together experts, researchers, and health professionals to present the latest advances and challenges in the fight against viral hepatitis.

The objective of this symposium was to share knowledge and pursue the discussions started during the previous editions, and enhance experience-sharing and data comparison.

The symposium started with the assessment of the current situation in Southeast Asia and then unfolded following two sessions led by the experts:

  • Session 1: Update on hepatitis B care and prevention
  • Session 2: How can we reach the 2030 HCV eradication goal?

Session 1: Update on Hepatitis B care and prevention

Prof. Massimo Colombo (EASL International Liver Foundation) chaired the first session, which focused on Hepatitis B, addressing classical and new approaches to monitoring Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and Hepatitis D virus (HDV) infections.

Progress and challenges of the vaccination of the child and prevention of perinatal HBV transmission were presented, as well as the results of the study on the alternative strategy of free immunoglobulin for prevention of mother-to-child transmission. This session concluded with perspectives on the potential cure of chronic Hepatitis B.

Session 2: How can we reach the 2030 HCV eradication goal?

This second session, chaired by Po-Lin Chan (WHO Western Pacific Region Office), focused on the HCV eradication by 2030. To achieve this objective, the experts presented their classical and future approaches to the diagnosis and monitoring of viral Hepatitis C.

The international experts of this regional hepatitis network meet annually to make progress on discussions and decision-making on this major public health concern in the Greater Mekong Basin, a region at the center of major outbreaks of these infections worldwide.

This event was made possible thanks to the combined efforts of researchers, experts and teachers from the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement IRD), Chiang Mai University, Sorbonne-Paris-Nord University, the Ministries of Health for Cambodia and Thailand, the support of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Lyon Cancer Research Center (CRCL), the Center of Infectiology Lao Christophe Mérieux and with the financial support of the Mérieux Foundation.

Watch the replay

More information about hepatitis B and C

Viral hepatitis B and C affect more than 350 million worldwide (296 million for hepatitis B and 58 million for hepatitis C), causing 1.1 million deaths per year*. Hepatitis has become the leading fatal infectious disease, ahead of tuberculosis, HIV and malaria.

Hepatitis B and C are responsible for more than 80% of hepatocellular carcinomas (primary liver cancer) worldwide, particularly in Asia and Africa. Hepatocellular carcinoma is the fastest growing type of cancer in the world.

Hepatitis is avoidable, treatable and, in the case of hepatitis C, curable. However, more than 80% of people suffering from hepatitis do not benefit from prevention, testing and treatment services. One of the greatest paradoxes surrounding hepatitis at present is that the cost of treatment has been significantly reduced in developing countries thanks to generics, so much so that it is now the cost of diagnosis that is becoming a limiting factor.

In 2011, the WHO set up a global program for eliminating hepatitis by 2030, following a decision made by the World Health Assembly. The program has been incorporated within the HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases group, in order to intensify efforts to deal with viral hepatitis amongst people living with HIV. However, it is possible that the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and the disruption of health care systems that it is causing may alter the original eradication goals. It will therefore be necessary to be particularly vigilant during this decade to maintain the means of information/training in order to limit the impact of COVID-19 on the delay in the eradication of hepatitis, including in the Mekong region.

*Source: WHO