International Liver Congress

International Liver Congress

April 18, 2019
5 min watch

VIDEO: Children ‘must not be left behind’ in the fight for hepatitis elimination

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VIENNA — In this exclusive video from the International Liver Congress 2019, Marc Bulterys, MD, PhD, team leader of the Global Hepatitis Program at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, discusses the prevention, care and treatment of hepatitis B and hepatitis C among children and adolescents.

“This is a group that we should not leave behind; we have to make sure that they also get access to care and treatment,” Bulterys told Healio Gastroenterology and Liver Disease.

According to Bulterys, the target of less than 1% of children becoming infected with hepatitis B was reached by 2017 ahead of the 2020 target. However, the prevalence remains around 2.3% in sub-Saharan Africa for hepatitis B.

“Right now, few children are accessing treatment for hepatitis B at the younger age,” he said. “However, we feel it is really important for children to have access to treatment if they need it. Some children do develop cirrhosis and even liver cancer very rapidly, so they have to have access to the best treatments available.”

For hepatitis C, there are no approved therapies for children aged younger than 12 years, but Bulterys said that the WHO is hopeful that both the EMA and the FDA will approve therapies for children aged between 3 years and 11 years within the next 6 months to 1 year.

“The latest guidelines of the WHO recommend treating all,” he said. “The only exception we have now is for pregnant women because we have few safety data available at this time, but there too, there is additional data that is accumulating and perhaps in the next year or two we may be able to expand that indication as well.”

Disclosure: Bulterys is an employee of the World Health Organization.