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02 Oct 2019

What it’s like living with hepatitis B – a research scientist shares his story

An Australian hepatitis B (HBV) research scientist will share his experience living with the virus at a public forum as part of the 2019 International HBV Meeting in Melbourne on Friday, October 4. 

Dr Thomas Tu discovered he had hepatitis B, which causes liver damage and cancer, during a routine blood test when he was a teenager. The now 33-year-old has dedicated his working life to researching the virus to help the more than 250 million people worldwide with the condition. 

“I converted my hepatitis diagnosis into fuel to drive towards my life’s passion – passion for my work,” Dr Tu says. “Knowing what it feels like to have a chronic hepatitis B infection makes me want to do more.” 

Dr Tu is currently healthy but lives with the daily worry that his condition, controlled with treatment, will take a turn for the worse and advance towards liver damage or cancer. 

His own research focuses on accurately identifying the hepatitis B virus DNA in infected liver cells and tracking how a chronic infection leads to liver cancer. “It’s my hope that my work will lead to something – whether that be new diagnosis tools, treatments, or knowledge – that will make life easier for those living with HBV,” he said. 

Dr Tu recently returned from four years working with a leading HBV researcher in Germany and now heads his own research group at the Westmead Institute of Medical Research in Sydney. 

The free public forum will also present the latest advances towards a cure for HBV, says Co-chair of the 2019 International HBV Meeting, Professor Peter Revill, Royal Melbourne Hospital Senior Medical Scientist at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, Melbourne. 

“This is the first public forum dedicated to chronic hepatitis B held in Australia. This is really an opportunity for the scientists to engage with the lay community and vice versa, and discuss the latest advances towards a cure,” says Prof Revill, who also leads the International Coalition to Eliminate Hepatitis B (ICE-HBV). 

Hepatitis B (HBV) is a small virus that can have a big impact. Infecting the liver, it is one of the major causes of liver scarring – or cirrhosis – and liver cancer. In Australia, an estimated 240,000 people have the condition – enough to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground two-and-a-half times. 

The 2019 International HBV Meeting is coordinated by the Hepatitis B Foundation

Read Dr Tu's speech from the 2019 Intenrational HBV meeting.

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