• Vol. 45 No. 1
  • 15 January 2016

Time for Action on Viral Hepatitis

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ABSTRACT

The recent outbreak of hepatitis C virus (HCV) at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has highlighted the dangers of viral hepatitis. In this case, infection control and environmental contamination were the culprits, particularly, a drop of blood containing 5 million IU HCV. From a broader perspective, there has been a revolution in HCV therapy with the recent rapid evolution of short-term (12 weeks) safe, all oral directlyacting antiviral (DAA) therapy leading to cure rates of 90% to 100%, even in previously diffi cult to treat patients with liver cirrhosis, previous treatment failure and those on immunosuppression. Consequently, treating HCV in risk groups such as renal dialysis and haemophiliacs can eliminate a pool of infected patients to prevent future outbreaks. A seroprevalence study is needed to identify a possible “birth cohort” effect that could aid screening. For HBV, vaccination has reduced prevalence to 3.8%, but these patients are prone to complications such as HBV fl ares. Since 2014, 13 patients developed liver failure and were listed for liver transplantation at National University Hospital (NUH) but 6 died beforehand. This avoidable catastrophe is due to undiagnosed HBV infection or patients who did not return for follow-up. Good antiviral therapy is available, but the issues are similar to HCV, identifi cation of patients and linkage to care. A cure seems likely in the future as pharmaceutical companies are developing new agents. Singapore has joined in this initiative with a recent award of a national research translational grant to better understand the pathophysiology and the processes needed for a cure of HBV.


The recent hepatitis C virus (HCV) outbreak in the renal ward at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) brought to public attention a little known virus. Little known to the public in Singapore largely due to the relatively low local prevalence, a revolution was occurring in hepatitis C therapy.

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