Worldwide, more than 400 million people are infected with hepatitis B, C and/or D viruses (HBV, HCV, HDV). Chronic infections often remain silent for decades but damage the liver - causing liver cirrhosis and cancer. More than 1.4 million people die of viral hepatitis each year and the number of cases is still on an upward trend. The public health threat of viral hepatitis has long been underestimated. Just recently in the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, the World Health Organization (WHO) called for international action to combat viral hepatitis, with the aim of drastically reducing the disease burden by 2030.
Some forms of viral hepatitis can be prevented or treated, and HCV infection can even be cured. However, some important elements are still needed in order to reach the WHO's ambitious goal. The goal will most likely only be achieved if a prophylactic vaccine for hepatitis C and curative therapies for hepatitis B and D become available. It has not yet been fully understood how hepatitis E is transmitted through meat consumption. The research area “Hepatitis” at the DZIF addresses all these points and some promising approaches are already on the path towards clinical application.
Prof. Dr. Ralf Bartenschlager's speech at the Lasker awards ceremony
In 2016, the Heidelberg DZIF virologist Ralf Bartenschlager received the Lasker Award for his research on the hepatitis C virus.
The prize is considered the unofficial "American Nobel Prize for Medicine". In his acceptance speech he describes his professional career and the special challenges he has faced on his way to top-level research.
Developing a better understanding and new therapies for a previously neglected virus. One drug is already in clinical trials.