Hepatitis: How is this disease caused by a virus detected and treated?

In the Americas, hepatitis kills more than 125,000 people each year, mostly from hepatitis B and hepatitis C, while 400 million people worldwide are chronically infected with hepatitis B or hepatitis C viruses.

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Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can cause moderate to severe illness. The hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses can be spread in different ways, such as through contact with blood and body fluids of an infected person, and can even be passed from mother to child during childbirth.

People who are at higher risk for hepatitis B and C are most likely to have physical contact with an infected person.

Thus, health workers, drug and alcohol users, people receiving blood transfusions or hemodialysis, or people having unprotected sex are often more susceptible to the disease.

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There are five strains of hepatitis, namely hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. All of these strains can cause the disease, but they don’t always show the same symptoms. They vary in how they are spread, how to prevent them, and the severity of each disease. Hepatitis B and C, in particular, have become chronic diseases, with more than 325 million people infected worldwide. For many people, its treatment and access to diagnostic tests remain complex.

What are the symptoms

Symptoms associated with hepatitis often include fever, yellowing of the skin and eyes, abdominal pain, dark urine, white stools, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, etc. Likewise, it’s important to note that if not treated properly, hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis, progressive deterioration of the liver, and a type of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and liver type C virus (HCV) infection are associated with approximately 65% ​​of liver cancer cases worldwide.

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Nearly 50% of cases are caused by HCV. Likewise, hepatitis C disease is so severe that it is likely that 1 million people with chronic, untreated HCV infection will die from complications related to the disease over the next 40 to 50 years. Therefore, comprehensive technological solutions are playing a fundamental role in the health field. Screening and antiviral drugs are critical to address this disease. Treatments that target the hepatitis virus can significantly reduce the number of deaths and help prevent patients from developing complications throughout their treatment.

Testing and Technology

Hepatitis B is diagnosed by detecting hepatitis B virus (HBsAg), which can be done through a laboratory test. When positive, the diagnosis must be confirmed by supplementary testing, including direct detection of viral load through molecular biology tests that identify the presence of viral DNA (HBV-DNA).

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Hepatitis C is usually detected in the chronic phase with a positive anti-HCV test, requiring a viral load test (HCV-RNA) to confirm active viral infection. After these tests, the patient can be referred for medications to treat the infection and prevent progression of the disease. For hepatitis A, D, and E, there are specific serological tests that can diagnose the disease so that patients can receive appropriate treatment.

“Hepatitis, although less well-known, has a significant impact on public health in countries around the world. It is important to recognize that although hepatitis can be serious, if its symptoms are caught early, it is possible to provide effective treatment. This is why technology testing tools It is crucial to properly manage the disease. Increased awareness, prevention and access to medical care to treat hepatitis can make a difference and improve survival rates,” said Hélida Silva, Director of Medical Affairs for Latin America at Siemens Healthineers.

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