Viral Hepatitis

Curbing the burden of viral hepatitis

Viral hepatitis is a major public health threat and a leading cause of death worldwide with an annual mortality similar to that of other major infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis.1,2

From the discovery of the first specific biomarker of viral hepatitis in 1963, hepatology became a focused subject.3 Progress has been made—including the development of vaccines and cures—yet viral hepatitis remains a global health burden with many cases of acute and chronic infection exhibiting no or mild symptoms.1

Today, an estimated 90% of the 354 million people worldwide living with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and/or hepatitis C virus (HCV) are unaware of their status.1 If left undiagnosed and untreated, these infections may progress to severe diseases such as cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma and end-stage liver failure.1

Hepatitis is a silent killer
  • Viral hepatitis accounts for 1.34 million deaths globally—including liver cancer, acute cases, and cirrhosis4—and exceeded the number of deaths caused by HIV infection, tuberculosis, or malaria in 2018.4
  • HBV infections are severely underdiagnosed and not curable— infections in infancy and early childhood lead to chronic hepatitis in about 95% of cases.5
  • HCV infections are usually asymptomatic, causing approximately 70% of cases to develop into chronic infections, leading to significant (and unnecessary) mortality.6
  • By 2040, deaths from chronic hepatitis are expected to exceed the combined mortality associated with HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.4
  • Despite these numbers, vaccines exist for HBV and antiviral medicines can cure more than 95% of persons with hepatitis C infection.5,6 However, for most affected populations, testing and treatment remain beyond reach.1
A notable shift in global focus

Hepatitis can affect both the general health and quality of life of infected populations, resulting in significant economic burden on countries.1

However, despite this prevalence, viral hepatitis receives relatively little funding and attention from global health policy makers and donors compared to diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

A study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that an estimated 4.5 million premature deaths could be prevented in low- and middle-income countries by 2030 through the use of vaccination, diagnostic tests, medicines, and education campaigns for hepatitis.1


In response, the World Health Assembly approved in 2016 a global strategy to take action against viral hepatitis7


reduction in new cases of chronic hepatitis B and C by 20301


reduction in hepatitis-related deaths1

Education is an essential part of elimination

For countries working to reach elimination, disease awareness campaigns can be an effective upfront strategy for countering the frequent asymptomatic presentation of viral hepatitis. Encouraging high-risk populations to seek out testing may accelerate elimination efforts while also helping to address stigmas often associated with infection.

The components of a comprehensive viral hepatitis testing solution

Identifying and managing an infection with holistic, scalable, and sustainable testing solutions.

The right diagnostic portfolio offers a broad range of tools that address key population needs—from increasing accessibility to decreasing the number of patients lost to follow-up and beyond.

  • Assessing liver function with enzyme testing

  • Immunoassays for screening and diagnosis

  • Immunoassays for monitoring disease progression

  • Confirmatory molecular testing of active HBV, HCV, and HEV infections

  • Determining HCV genotype  

  • Monitoring viral load to assess HBV  and HCV treatment response

  • Testing for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) biomarkers

Scalability, sustainability, and support.

Investing in diagnostic solutions requires long-term partnerships. For this reason, Roche’s integrated solutions are designed to meet the current and future needs of countries looking to eliminate viral hepatitis.

  • Multi-purpose platforms offering the right menu of assays across a range of throughputs and disease areas

  • Roche experts to support laboratories and countries in meeting their goals

  • Fast installations, robust trainings, and increased accessibility enable timely action when it is needed most

Elimination in action today

An increasing number of countries are starting to work towards the WHO target of eliminating HBV and HCV, including Egypt, France, Georgia, Iceland, Mongolia, Spain, and Switzerland.8

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  1. World Health Organization. Hepatitis. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  2. Cooke GS, Andrieux-Meyer I, Applegate TL, et al. Accelerating the elimination of viral hepatitis: a Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology Commission [published correction appears in Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019 May;4(5):e4]. Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019;4(2):135-184. doi:10.1016/S2468-1253(18)30270-X
  3. Gerlich WH. Medical virology of hepatitis B: how it began and where we are now. Virol J. 2013;10:239. Published 2013 Jul 20. doi:10.1186/1743-422X-10-239
  4. Thomas DL. Global elimination of chronic hepatitis. N Engl J Med. 2019;380:2041-2050.
  5. World Health Organization. Hepatitis B. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  6. World Health Organization. Hepatitis C. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  7. World Health Organization. Combating hepatitis B and C to reach elimination by 2030. Advocacy Brief, 2016.
  8. CDA Foundation. HCV Elimination Targets. Accessed June 28, 2022.