Benefits of Curing Hepatitis C Infection
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is one of the most important chronic viral infections worldwide and affects 3% of the world population, approximately 170-200 million people. The consequences of chronic infection are liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, which develop in 20-30% of the patients, leading to hepatic failure, need for liver transplantation and death. The hepatitis C virus is a RNA virus that is prevalent worldwide and is classified by the World Health Organization (International Agency for Research on Cancer) as one of the six oncogenic viruses. Hepatocellular carcinoma is one of the most important cancers and is fifth worldwide, but third in men in terms of mortality. Hepatitis C kills approximately 350,000 people every year, surpassing HIV infection in many countries as a cause of death.
Hepatitis C virus can kill in different ways: it can cause cirrhosis, cancer or severe liver disease in people co-infected with HIV. Hepatitis C treatment started in the mid 1980s with a 6% efficacy rate among patients taking thrice-weekly injections of human interferon. This therapy had numerous side effects. The efficacy of hepatitis C treatment has increased, and currently, the efficacy of the so-called direct antiviral agents (DAAs) is 80-90%. The benefits of a cure are enormous and include a lifetime negative serum HCV RNA, disappearance of HCV in the liver, regression of cirrhosis, decreased risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma, disappearance of oesophageal varices, no more risk of HCV transmission to sexual partners or children, and increased survival.
At present, hepatitis C can be considered a curable disease.