If someone told you that hepatitis kills more people than HIV/AIDS every year in Canada, would you be surprised?
During the third annual World Hepatitis Day yesterday, support and research funding were being sought for the disease — the kind that has taken HIV/AIDS from being deadly within two years of diagnosis, to a well-controlled chronic infection with near-normal life expectancy and over 20 drugs licensed for its treatment
Dr. Lorne Tyrell and Dr. Michael Houghton were on hand at the Katz Group Centre for Pharmacy and Health Research to raise awareness during the event.
“Everybody is aware of AIDS and HIV,” said Tyrell, founding scientific director at the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology. “But most people aren’t aware of hepatitis B or C, and what the impact of these diseases are.
“In Canada, there are more deaths now from hepatitis B or C than there is from AIDS.”
Tyrell discovered the treatment for hepatitis B and Houghton was the co-discoverer of the hepatitis C virus.
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, and both of these diseases can cause liver cancer, which has a high mortality rate.
“It is a major cause of mortality, and what this day is about is an initiative by the World Hepatitis Alliance to make governments aware of how big this problem is, and how much the developing as well as developed countries need to do more to prevent this disease,” said Houghton, Canadian Excellence in Research Chair.
“Hepatitis C and hepatitis B are the leading causes of liver transplantation, and the cost of the transplantation is enormous.”