The Francis Crick Institute
s44263-023-00026-1.pdf (1.09 MB)

A new approach to prevent, diagnose, and treat hepatitis B in Africa.

Download (1.09 MB)
journal contribution
posted on 2024-05-29, 10:30 authored by C Wendy Spearman, Monique I Andersson, Bisi Bright, Pantong M Davwar, Hailemichael Desalegn, Alice Nanelin Guingane, Asgeir Johannessen, Kenneth Kabagambe, Maud Lemoine, Philippa C Matthews, Gibril Ndow, Nicholas Riches, Yusuke Shimakawa, Roger Sombié, Alexander J Stockdale, Jantjie J Taljaard, Michael J Vinikoor, Gilles Wandeler, Edith Okeke, Mark Sonderup, Hepatitis B in Africa Collaborative Network (HEPSANET)
There are 82 million people living with hepatitis B (PLWHB) in the World Health Organization Africa region, where it is the main cause of liver disease. Effective vaccines have been available for over 40 years, yet there are 990,000 new infections annually, due to limited implementation of hepatitis B birth dose vaccination and antenatal tenofovir prophylaxis for highly viraemic women, which could eliminate mother-to-child transmission. Despite effective and cheap antiviral treatment which can suppress hepatitis B virus replication and reduce the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), < 2% of PLWHB are diagnosed, and only 0.1% are treated. As a result, PLWHB are frequently diagnosed only when they have already developed decompensated cirrhosis and late-stage HCC, and consequently 80,000 hepatitis B-associated deaths occur each year. Major barriers include complex treatment guidelines which were derived from high-income settings, lack of affordable diagnostics, lack or insufficient domestic funding for hepatitis care, and limited healthcare infrastructure. Current treatment criteria may overlook patients at risk of cirrhosis and HCC. Therefore, expanded and simplified treatment criteria are needed. We advocate for decentralized community treatment programmes, adapted for low-resource and rural settings with limited laboratory infrastructure. We propose a strategy of treat-all except patients fulfilling criteria that suggest low risk of disease progression. Expanded treatment represents a financial challenge requiring concerted action from policy makers, industry, and international donor agencies. It is crucial to accelerate hepatitis B elimination plans, integrate hepatitis B care into existing healthcare programmes, and prioritize longitudinal and implementation research to improve care for PLWHB.


Crick (Grant ID: CC2223, Grant title: Matthews CC2223)


Usage metrics

    The Francis Crick Institute



    Ref. manager