Viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by infection by one of several viruses designated hepatitis A-E.
Hepatitis A and E are transmitted through contaminated food and water. Hepatitis B, C and D are blood-borne viruses, and can also be transmitted from mother to child at the time of birth (especially hepatitis B), and also through sexual contact. All these viruses can cause acute hepatitis. Hepatitis B and C viruses can cause chronic infections, which may eventually lead to liver scarring (fibrosis and cirrhosis) and liver cancer.
The global burden
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 400 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B or C virus and 1.4 million people die each year from the various forms of viral hepatitis. Approximately 450,000 Australians are living with chronic viral hepatitis.
The Doherty Institute's expertise
Viral hepatitis is a major focus for the Doherty Institute, with a broad spectrum of activity conducted on the viruses from basic science to clinical care and public health.
The Doherty Institute is home to the WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis, one of only four such Centres in the world designated to:
- Conduct surveillance, treatment and prevention activities
- Develop policy
- Assist the WHO to implement its Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis
The Doherty Institute also houses the WHO Regional Reference Laboratory for Hepatitis B (Western Pacific Region), which is responsible for laboratory, technical, research and training support to countries in the region, as well as serving as a resource on hepatitis B diagnostics and surveillance.
The Doherty Institute provides numerous diagnostic and specialised molecular tests for detection of various markers of infection for all forms of viral hepatitis (A-E). Investigating viral characteristics associated with drug resistance, vaccine escape, and adverse disease outcomes is a strong research focus. In addition, the Doherty Institute undertakes extensive research in the area of viral hepatitis and HIV co-infection, examining factors associated with disease progression and responses to antiviral treatment.
The Doherty Institute’s epidemiology team conducts research relating to the prevalence and burden of chronic viral hepatitis locally, nationally and globally, and helps guide public health responses to reduce the impact of viral hepatitis. Physicians and specialist nurses provide a range of clinical services for people living with viral hepatitis, including providing treatment and care in hepatitis clinics at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and also outreach services to community settings across Victoria and interstate. They also provide capacity building in community health services and private general practices, and through involvement in clinical trials and other research projects.
The International Coalition to Eliminate Hepatitis B (ICE-HBV)
The Doherty Institute, together with Melbourne Health, the French National Agency for Research on AIDS and Hepatitis (ANRS) and the International HBV Meeting, created the International Coalition to Eliminate Hepatitis B (ICE-HBV) in 2016. Inspired by the initiative “Towards an HIV Cure” of the International AIDS Society, ICE-HBV seeks to accelerate scientific progress in hepatitis B (HBV) cure research. The Coalition supports the discovery of a safe, affordable, scalable and effective cure, available to everyone living with HBV including children.
The ICE-HBV vision is for an international, independent, research-based and patient-centered forum to coordinate, promote and foster collaborative partnerships working towards a cure for HBV. Under the leadership of Professor Fabien Zoulim from ANRS and Associate Professor Peter Revill from the Doherty Institute, ICE-HBV convenes four scientific working groups on virology, immunology, innovative tools and clinical sciences with the aim of defining a multidisciplinary research roadmap and performing collaborative translational research to advance science in priority areas. ICE-HBV consults with key HBV stakeholders such as patient’s representatives and global public health institutions to ensure the relevancy of its research priorities.
ICE-HBV also works to coordinate and promote existing HBV cure events, encouraging their focus on translational science. In addition, it seeks to foster travel scholarship programs and prizes for junior investigators and researchers from developing countries.
Please download the ICE-HBV brochure for more information.