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05 Oct 2019

International scientists sign ‘Melbourne Declaration’

 Up to 400 scientists have committed to fast-tracking a cure for hepatitis B within 10 years at the International HBV Meeting in Melbourne.

Hepatitis B experts at the 2019 International HBV Meeting have signed ‘The Melbourne Declaration’ calling for a significant injection of funds to commit to rapidly advancing research to rid the world of hepatitis B – a disease which causes liver damage and 40 per cent of all liver cancer. 

The Melbourne Declaration calls for funding to achieve a cure within 10 years – matching calls by the World Health Organization to eliminate hepatitis B as a public health threat by 2030. 

“To achieve these goals, we call for a substantial increase in government and industry funding dedicated to increased testing and molecular diagnostics, treatment and curative HBV research, and to facilitate equitable, affordable and universal access to an HBV cure within the next 10 years,” the Declaration says. 

In Australia, an estimated 240,000 people have hepatitis B – enough to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground two-and-a-half times. It affects more people than HIV and hepatitis C combined. 

Worldwide, HBV causes 880,000 deaths every year – approximately one every 45 seconds. Today, more people die from chronic hepatitis B (CHB) than from malaria. CHB causes almost 40 per cent of hepatocellular carcinoma, the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide. 

A cure for hepatitis C – a different virus that also causes liver cancer – was introduced in 2016. But a cure for HBV remains elusive. 

HBV attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease. The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. Most of the transmission worldwide occurs from mother to baby, which can be prevented by vaccination. 

“An effective preventative vaccine against HBV is available and is crucial to the global campaign to eliminate the virus,” said meeting co-chair, Professor Peter Revill, Royal Melbourne Hospital Senior Medical Scientist at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, Melbourne. 

“However, it is important we also focus our efforts on a cure to help the more than 250 million people worldwide living with the disease, including those in Australia, for which the vaccine is of no benefit.” 

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

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