World Hepatitis Day promoted by the World Health Organization is celebrated on July 28, with the aim of raising public awareness on the global burden of viral hepatitis and encouraging prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
This day, in 2021, carries even greater weight as the COVID-19 pandemic, over the last two years, has had a strong impact on patients suffering from viral hepatitis in Italy.Two recent studies by the Italian Association for the Study of the Liver (AISF) have attempted to quantify the reduction in the activities of Italian hepatology centers.
We talk about it with Professor Alessio Aghemo, Secretary General of AISF and Head of the Hepatology Operating Unit in Humanitas Reserach Hospital.
Viral hepatitis and COVID-19: delays in treatment
“The AISF study shows that the Italian centers have been strongly impacted in the management of patients with viral hepatitis, especially during the first wave of the pandemic. In fact, in 2020, outpatient activities were suspended in most centers with a significant delay in diagnosis and access to treatment.
During the second and third wave we have seen an organizational improvement on the Italian territory, which has made it possible to guarantee access to treatment for about 60-70% of patients, unfortunately often with significant delays in the start of antiviral treatments ” , explains Professor Aghemo.
“The availability of effective antiviral therapies against HCV and HBV makes it possible to achieve healing from hepatitis C in 99% of cases and to suppress the replication of the hepatitis B virus on an ongoing basis in 99% of patients.
The delay brought by the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to have an impact on death rates from these diseases over the next 10 years.The good news for 2021, however, is the allocation of 74 million euros by the government for the diagnosis of patients with chronic hepatitis C who are unaware of their infection.
These resources will translate into regional screening projects for the population born between 1969 and 1989 to identify patients and guarantee them quick access to antiviral drugs ”, continues prof. Aghemo.The commitment of Humanitas against viral hepatitis
Humanitas has resumed hepatological activities on a regular basis since May 2020. This result was possible thanks to the organization and synergy between administrative, nursing, health management and medical staff. Thanks to coded treatment paths and dedicated clinics, patients with viral hepatitis have quick access to antiviral treatments and guaranteed visits within the times recommended by scientific societies.
Humanitas’ commitment is also reflected in clinical and epidemiological research, in partnership with the Higher Institute of Health, with the European Association for the Prevention of Hepatitis B and C and with the Polaris Observatory of the US foundation CDA. At our hospital there is also an international experimental protocol with active drugs against Delta Hepatitis, a form of viral hepatitis that currently has no commercially available therapies.