Hepatitis C

Author Edward Borton , 10-Nov-2020

Table of contents

Hepatitis C is a recently discovered disease. Harvey J. Alter identified the variant form of Hepatitis during the 70s, which then became known as a ‘non-A, non-B Hepatitis (NANBH)’. In the 1980s, Michael Houghton and his team isolated the genome of the new virus, and it was named ‘Hepatitis C’. Finally, in 1997 Charles M. Rice proved that the virus is a disease agent, capable of acting alone to cause Hepatitis.

This year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine has been jointly awarded to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles M. Rice for the discovery of the virus. Their contributions (illustrated below) have led to improved understanding, prevention, and treatment of the disease.

5 Types Of Hepatitis

There are five known types of viral Hepatitis – ABCD, and E – of which types A and B and E are currently preventable by vaccines. Over 71 million cases of chronic Hepatitis C infection were estimated in 2015, though that number has been steadily falling over the past decade. The majority of deaths are caused by liver cancer or cirrhosis brought on by the infection, with an estimated 399,000 fatal cases in 2016.

Acute Hepatitis

Acute hepatitis C is a short-term, relatively mild form of the disease that occurs in about 15% of people who become infected. Most people who have acute hepatitis C recover completely and do not go on to develop chronic hepatitis C.

Chronic Hepatitis C

Chronic hepatitis C is a long-term, serious illness that affects about 75% of people who become infected with the virus. Chronic hepatitis C often does not cause any symptoms for many years, but can eventually lead to serious health problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Chronic acute hepatitis is  also a way in which some individuals refer to chronic hepatitis C.

History of Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a serious medical condition that can have major long-term effects on the health of those who are infected. Although we now understand much more about this disease and how it is transmitted, the history of hepatitis C is complex and has involved many different developments and breakthroughs over the years.

The origins of hepatitis C can be traced back to at least the late 19th century when scientists first began to recognize that some infectious diseases were caused by viruses. Over time, researchers identified different strains of hepatitis viruses. It wasn’t until 1989 that scientists discovered hepatitis C proper, and even then they were unable to learn much about its transmission or development.

Over the next several decades, research into hepatitis C continued to advance at a rapid pace, with many exciting new discoveries being made along the way. Molecular biologists were able to characterize how hepatitis C works in the body, while epidemiologists studied specific populations in order to better understand how it is transmitted. Today, we know much more about hepatitis C than ever before and are developing effective treatments for those who have been affected by this condition. Still, our understanding is continually evolving as new technologies allow us to learn more about this fascinating disease

Hepatitis Symptoms

Hepatitis C can often be asymptomatic, or associated with mild symptoms, and may smolder for up to six months before becoming active. There are a number of different symptoms that can be associated with hepatitis C, and they can vary somewhat depending on the individual.

In general, though, hepatitis C can cause fatigue, joint pain, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), and itchy skin.

In some cases, people with hepatitis C may also experience cognitive difficulties, including memory problems and difficulty concentrating. Additionally, hep C can increase the risk of developing other liver conditions, such as cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Is Cirrhosis One of the Symptoms and How Does it Impact Health?

Cirrhosis is a severe chronic liver disease that occurs when the liver is damaged, preventing it from functioning properly. The most common cause of cirrhosis is hepatitis C, although other causes include excessive alcohol consumption and fatty liver disease.

Cirrhosis can lead to a range of health problems, including jaundice, fatigue, weight loss, and ascites (a build-up of fluid in the abdomen). In severe cases, it can lead to liver failure and death. Although there is no cure for cirrhosis, early diagnosis and treatment can help to slow its progression and improve the quality of life for those affected by the disease.

Diagnosis of Hepatitis

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for preventing serious liver damage. There are a few different ways that hepatitis C can be diagnosed. The most common way is through a blood test that looks for the presence of the hepatitis C virus. These blood tests are frequently used to detect antibodies or other substances associated with hepatitis C infections.

Other tests that may be used to diagnose hepatitis C include liver function tests, which can check for signs of liver damage, and imaging tests, such as ultrasounds or CT scans, which can help to assess the extent of liver damage.

Other tests include magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), which uses ultrasound waves to measure the elasticity of the liver, and is often used to assess liver damage in chronic hepatitis C. Another common test is transient elastography, which uses an acoustic pulse to evaluate the stiffness of the liver over time.

Additionally, doctors may perform a liver biopsy, taking a small sample of tissue from the patient’s liver to allow for direct examination under a microscope. Regardless of the specific test used, these tools are critical in helping doctors properly diagnose and treat hepatitis C outbreaks among their patients.

Treatment for Hep C

Although many laboratories are seeking an effective vaccine for this disease, currently available antiviral drugs have been shown to cure more than 95% of infections.

The World Health Organization is approaching the end of its Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, 2016-2021 which has the vision of reducing new infections by 90% – and deaths by 65%- by 2030.

The universal presence of this disease demands a robust response from all health authorities across the globe, and recognition given by the Nobel committee will raise the profile of the disease and encourage new avenues for research into Hepatitis C treatment and prevention.

There are a number of different treatment options available for hepatitis C, and the best course of action will depend on a number of factors, including the severity of the illness, the genotype of the virus, and whether or not the patient has any other underlying medical conditions.

In general, though, treatment for hepatitis C typically involves taking antiviral medication for a period of time. In some cases, patients may also need to undergo surgery to remove part of the liver.

The Epidemiology of Hepatitis Infections

The hepatitis C virus is one of the most common causes of hepatitis worldwide, affecting tens of millions of people across a variety of different populations. While our understanding of hepatitis C epidemiology has grown significantly over the past several decades, several key questions still remain.

  • What are some of the key risk factors for hepatitis C infection?
  • How does hepatitis C spread in different communities, and what can we do to prevent its transmission?
  • And perhaps most importantly, how can we effectively treat hepatitis C and mitigate the long-term effects of infection on individuals and society at large?

These are just some of the many important questions that epidemiologists and other researchers are working to answer as they continue to explore this fascinating but often under-recognized health issue.

How Does it Spread?

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that is spread through contact with infected blood. This can include sharing needles, exposure to contaminated medical equipment, and during childbirth, if the mother is infected. It can also be spread through unprotected sex. Symptoms of hepatitis C may not appear for years, so it’s important to get tested if you think you may have been exposed.

Where Should We Focus Our Efforts?

At the root of hepatitis C lies the virus itself, which can spread through blood contact and other bodily fluids. For this reason, there is a heavy focus on prevention methods such as vaccination campaigns and safe sex practices to limit new transmissions.

However, hepatitis C also has broader implications for public health. For example, it has been shown that hepatitis C is disproportionately more prevalent among certain communities and socioeconomic groups. This highlights the need for tailored interventions to prevent and contain the spread of hepatitis C in these populations.

Overall, an understanding of the epidemiology of hepatitis C is essential for policymakers, health practitioners, and researchers working to improve community health outcomes in this area.

Through extensive research, improved surveillance methods, community outreach efforts, and other innovative strategies, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of hepatitis C and take meaningful steps toward combating this serious public health challenge. This is where GIDEON comes into play.

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Edward Borton

Edward is a creative writer and editor currently helping GIDEON create insightful, compelling, and educational content to help bring the most out of GIDEON's data. Having worked in the IT, engineering, and medical industries, Edward has edited and authored promotional, academic, and professional pieces focused on engaging the reader and translating highly technical concepts into plain English.

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