What we do not know about hepatitis
It would seem that we already know enough about this scourge – hepatitis. And whoever is warned is armed. But it turns out that we know far from everything. Hepatologist, Candidate of Medical Sciences Vladimir Sergeytsev told MedPulse readers seven little-known, but interesting and important facts about this common and in many cases dangerous disease.
There are more than eight types of hepatitis.
Hepatitis is not always an infectious disease. A person can get hepatitis without getting infected from anyone. The fact is that, in addition to viral, there is autoimmune and toxic hepatitis. In the first case, the liver is attacked by the human immune system (the causes of such aggression are unknown). In toxic hepatitis, some drugs (overdose of paracetamol, amoxicillin and potassium clavulanate), industrial chemicals and alcohol affect the liver. The liver of 20 percent of alcoholics sooner or later is under attack. As a result of these effects, inflammation of the liver occurs.
But still the most common viral hepatitis. There are at least six different viruses that cause hepatitis (A, B, C, D, E, G). They are very different in nature, and the diseases that arise as a result of infection by each of them are also different. The most dangerous are hepatitis B and C, which lead to the development of severe forms of chronic hepatitis. Hepatitis D virus also leads to this, but it is dangerous only if a person is already infected with hepatitis B. Viruses A and E are less dangerous because they cause only acute hepatitis. The hepatitis G virus was discovered relatively recently, and there is still debate in the scientific community about whether it is the cause of hepatitis.
Not only drug addicts become infected with hepatitis B and C
Hepatitis B infected two billion people worldwide, of which 400 million suffer from chronic hepatitis. The problem is that many infected people are not aware of their own status, and therefore spread the virus further. The World Health Organization estimates that about three percent of the world’s population is infected with hepatitis C. Up to eighty-five percent of acute infections result in chronic hepatitis.
Not only drug addicts are infected by hepatitis B and C. Blood transfusions, manicures in the salon and a visit to the dentist are also ways to get the virus. For hepatitis B, unprotected sex can be added to this list. It also leads to infection with hepatitis A. This virus is also transmitted if you drink contaminated water or eat something prepared by a sick person who has not washed his hands.
Despite the prevalence of the disease, hepatitis is a less discussed topic than HIV or malaria …
Different types of hepatitis virus are common in different countries.
Viral hepatitis is not distributed the same way around the world. Most often it occurs in Asia and Africa: in China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Afghanistan, 10-12 percent of people have hepatitis B. In Guinea and Liberia, this figure reaches 16 percent. In countries of Eastern Europe (including Russia), one to two percent of the population is sick, and in Western Europe and North America less than one percent of the population is infected with hepatitis B. Therefore, before a trip to Russia, unvaccinated Europeans and Americans are recommended to be vaccinated against hepatitis B and A).
Hepatitis C is most common in Central and East Asia and North Africa, primarily among drug addicts. But the story in Egypt is completely different: there was a campaign there in 1960 to combat schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease that 40 percent of Egyptian villagers suffered at that time. Inadequate precautions during the processing of glass syringes during a massive campaign for the treatment and prevention of schistosomiasis have caused the hepatitis C epidemic in Egypt.
With hepatitis B and C, liver cancer is more likely to occur.
Viral hepatitis is not only dangerous in itself, but also because it can lead to liver cancer. Up to eighty percent of primary liver cancer episodes worldwide occur in chronic carriers of viral hepatitis B or C. However, it is not entirely clear how the virus causes cancer (and whether). There are several basic theories. Firstly, chronic infection of a patient with hepatitis B or C viruses leads to permanent inflammation of the liver, which leads to cirrhosis and potentially cancer. In addition, the immune system of an infected person for years attacks the liver cells in which the virus multiplies, which exacerbates the situation. Secondly, both viruses (B and C) interfere with the molecular processes occurring in the liver cells. It is not known to what extent these changes contribute to the development of a cancerous tumor, however, recent studies show that when the hepatitis B virus multiplies in the cell, changes in the genes that control its division occur. This, in turn, can lead to uncontrolled cell division and the growth of a cancerous tumor.