Hepatitis: jaundice doesn't just look yellow

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Liver disease: World Hepatitis Day 2013: hepatitis often remains undetected

Hepatitis is one of the most common viral infections worldwide. Although almost everyone can be affected, many don't even know they are infected. World Hepatitis Day is intended to raise public awareness of the disease.

Liver suffers from dumbness An estimated 500 million people worldwide have hepatitis B or C, the two most common types. In Germany, the Robert Koch Institute estimates that the number of people affected is up to one million. It is remarkable that the disease remains undetected in many patients. "Few people know about it," as Deutsche Leberhilfe wrote in Cologne. Liver inflammation caused by the hepatitis virus is often not noticed because the "liver suffers from silence," as some doctors say.

Confused with a flu-like infection Some typical symptoms at the beginning of the disease, such as fever, body aches, nausea or fatigue, are often perceived as a supposed flu-like infection. But even such warning signs sometimes do not appear for years. Although routine liver exams sometimes result in increased liver function tests, "which is often ignored," says the self-help organization. If the infections go undetected, they could lead to liver cirrhosis and cancer.

Closer than you think On the occasion of World Hepatitis Day tomorrow, Deutsche Leberhilfe sums up: "Treatment has made great strides in the past ten years." The day was introduced in 2011 by the World Health Organization and aims to raise global awareness among the population on the topics of hepatitis B and hepatitis C and to encourage prevention, diagnosis and treatment. This year the motto is: "Closer than you think." Among other things, a photo campaign with three stuffed monkeys was carried out in advance. "The three monkeys are supposed to do this "Looking away", "not listening" and "not wanting to talk about" symbolize ", says the Liver Aid website. Professor Heiner Wedemeyer, senior physician at the Hannover Medical School, refers to the problem:" We can only help when we know who is affected. "

Four risk groups The scientific coordinator of the German Liver Foundation advocates screening. In his opinion, four groups should be tested: those who received a blood transfusion before 1991, who consumed the drugs, who got a tattoo on vacation and "all patients with unclearly elevated liver values". There are drugs that suppress the virus , but hepatitis B is not curable. Wedemeyer says that in 2014 and 2015 new, side effects-free agents against hepatitis C will be approved. "This enables us to cure a chronic disease - that is almost the case in medicine unique. "

Cause research is progressing There are also advances in research into causes. On the one hand, an international team of scientists led by the Bonn University Hospital has identified the possible origin of the hepatitis C virus as part of an extensive study. On the other hand, researchers at the Frankfurt University Hospital have identified new factors that could favor hepatitis and have published their findings in the specialist magazine "Hepatology". Research group leader Christian Lange said: "There is a close connection between a vitamin D deficiency and the spread of the hepatitis B virus in the liver."

Vitamin D against hepatitis B? In this study, a low concentration of vitamin D was one of the strongest determinants for a high concentration of hepatitis B virus in the blood. The researchers write: "This finding opens up completely new possibilities for drug treatment of the disease." For four years, they had examined more than 200 patients with chronic hepatitis B and, among other things, found vitamin D deficiency unusually often that if the concentration of vitamin in the blood increased in summer due to the influence of sunlight, the number of viruses decreased - and vice versa. According to Lange, this suggests a causal link between the vitamin deficiency and the viruses. The team now wants to check the extent to which vitamin D can be used in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B.

Germany a world leader "Germany is a world leader in research," said Wedemeyer, "unfortunately not in terms of supply". This is the result of a Europe-wide study. In Germany there is no national action plan, there is "a patchwork." Perhaps World Hepatitis Day 2013 will help to improve the faulty care. In 2010, the WHO General Assembly adopted a resolution to recognize viral hepatitis as a global health threat. (ad)

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