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Outside the Lab Point of care testing, Screening and monitoring

A Hepatitis Crisis?

Last month, The Pathologist attended ESCMID Global 2024 in Barcelona, Spain, where we were inundated with cutting-edge research across clinical microbiology and infectious disease. I was rushed off my feet attending a variety of talks – from Jean-Michel Claverie’s history of permafrost to Sonika Tyagi’s Superbug AI project.

One popular topic this year revolved around diseases prominent in what we in the UK might refer to as the Victorian era (1820–1914). I explored this topic ahead of the conference, so I was half expecting the amount of research being shared on measles, TB, polio, and hepatitis. Shouldn’t these contagious diseases have been consigned to the history books along with Queen Victoria? Unfortunately, it seems we still have a long way to go.

In Tuesday afternoon’s session on eliminating viral hepatitis, the overwhelming consensus was a need for simplified screening, diagnosis, and treatment. Simona Ruta advocated for a “triple panel” approach: vaccination, reflex testing, and POC testing. But hitting the WHO 2030 elimination target could be a challenge, as highlighted by Erika Duffell’s sobering statistics on hepatitis B and C.


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According to the WHO Global hepatitis report 2024, “[Viral hepatitis] is the second biggest infectious cause of death globally – with 1.3 million deaths per year, the same as tuberculosis, a top infectious killer.”

The same report identifies funding challenges as a major bottleneck in research advances.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Earlier this month, the WHO announced one key milestone in the battle as Namibia became the first African country to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B and HIV. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, says “With concerted efforts, we can accelerate progress to reach the goals of ending mother-to-child transmission of HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis – the triple elimination.”

Hopefully by next year’s ESCMID Global meeting in Vienna, we will hear of yet more steps in the right direction towards eliminating these infectious diseases once and for all.

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About the Author
Jessica Allerton

Deputy Editor, The Pathologist

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