Mission & Objectives
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a major health problem worldwide. About 100 to 150 million people are infected, including approximately 4 to 5 million in Western Europe and 3 to 4 million in the United States. Approximately 60% to 70% of those infected have chronic hepatitis, and 15% to 20% have cirrhosis, which may evolve into hepatocellular carcinoma. Although disease caused by HCV infection progresses slowly and usually takes more than 20 to 30 years to develop into clinically overt liver disease, the number of cases is expected to increase sharply during the next decade. In the Western world, HCV infection is the most common cause of liver disease and the main indication for liver transplantation necessitated by end-stage liver disease.
Until now the treatment of chronic viral hepatitis was a prerequisite of hepatologists. However, infectious diseases specialists and medical microbiologists have become more involved due a number of reasons. These include: the importance of viral hepatitis in HIV-coinfected patients, possibility of treating patients with antiviral agents before actual liver disease occurs, importance of measurements of viral load, and recognition that prevention of spread of viral hepatitis requires expertise in the control of infectious diseases.