Worldwide, approximately 325 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B (HBV) or C (HCV) viruses and 15 million people have hepatitis D and B co-infections. These infections often have an insidious course of disease that targets the liver cells leading to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. A preventive vaccine against HBV exists. However, once the disease is present, antiviral drugs can only curb viral replication but not stop it. Co-infections with HDV present an additional complication as they are responsible for a particularly rapid development of liver cirrhosis. Over the past few years, patients suffering from hepatitis C infections have been cured with novel virostatic agents (direct acting antivirals, DAA) that demonstrate high success rates and few side effects. However, no vaccine against the virus exists. An ongoing major challenge in hepatitis management is the individualised treatment of patients that are difficult to treat—also with regard to cost optimisation.
Scientists research the role of resistance to antiviral drugs as well as treatment strategies for particularly difficult-to-treat patients—for instance, for patients who have already developed advanced cirrhosis.