Hepatitis B: A Concise Review

Harley T. Syyong, Eric M. Yoshida


Since the introduction of Hepatitis B preventative measures including the vaccine, the worldwide prevalence of Hepatitis B viral (HBV) infection has fallen. Despite this, chronic infection still remains a major global health problem, with more than 350 million people chronically infected. Chronic infection leaves those affected at risk of hepatic decompensation, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. In developed countries, the burden of disease is greatest among marginalized populations and immigrants from regions where HBV is endemic, making chronic hepatitis B an important, but clinically silent public health issue. The approval of the first potent oral antiviral agent in 1998 has revolutionized the management of hepatitis B, and current treatments such as conventional and Pegylated Interferon alpha as well as nucleoside and nucleotide analogues are widely used to suppress virus replication, reduce hepatitis activity, and halt disease progression. Nevertheless, because those most affected rarely seek medical attention, these treatments often fail to reach those who most need them. Fear of stigmatization and insufficient knowledge of HBV are important barriers to screening and treatment. As the immigrant population increases in Canada, medical students should be aware of opportunities for education, screening, prevention, and treatment of chronic hepatitis B to increase awareness and limit the spread of the disease.

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Syyong HT, Yoshida EM. Hepatitis B: A Concise Review. UBCMJ 2013 5(1):21-24.