Professor Henry Chan gave a comprehensive overview of the of HBV in the Asia Pacific in the opening plenary this morning. Professor Chan began by by making the point that hepatitis B virus (HBV) has been around for over 40 years and still presents a significant health burden for the Asia-Pacific region. HBV is the most common cause of liver cancer in Asia. In some countries, over 80% of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is caused by HBV.
He outlined that vaccination for HBV has made a difference, using Taiwan as an excellent example where prevalence of HBV in children has dropped dramatically to as low as 0.19 per 100,0000 in 2007, since the introduction of universal vaccination in 1984. However, achieving adequate coverage is still a challenge for many countries in the region.
There are also challenges regarding the treatment of hepatitis B. There are effective treatments available, however cost and access to the best first line therapies often presents a problem, particularly in resource- poor settings. This can lead to further challenges regarding resistance (following the use of older drugs such as lamivudine). Professor Chan presented evidence for the need for continuous long term therapy for hepatitis B and how this presents challenges in all settings.
Following 40 years of hepatitis B, there is still much work to be done and challenges to be overcome to ensure the health burden of hepatitis B is reduced in the Asia Pacific region.