WHO aims to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030: the situation in Italy

Eliminate L'hepatitis C by 2030, this is the ambitious goal that theWHO, World Health Organization, intends with this new plan to reduce the main public health problems represented by viral hepatitis. To underline the importance of this mission, even in Italywas among others the professor Massimo Andreoniscientific director of the Italian Society of Infectious and Tropical Diseases (Simit), who recalled how it is now even more necessary to carry out early diagnoses “to avoid the progressive and potentially fatal worsening of the condition”.

How common is hepatitis C?

To understand how viral hepatitis is able to impact public health, it is necessary to look at the data released by the WHO. According to estimates, approximately 80 million people in the world are affected by the sun virus hepatitis C, or about 1.1 percent of the world's population. The areas of the world with the highest number of infections are the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region and the WHO European region, with rates of 2.3 percent and 1.5 percent respectively. The virus also causes a greater number of chronic infections in people who use intravenous drugs.

Hepatitis C in Italy

L'AifaItalian Medicines Agency, estimates that they are approximately 300 thousand people in Italy affected by hepatitis C, even if there is a large number of patients who do not know they have contracted the virus. According to the WHO, in Italy alone it would be approximately 200 thousand individualswhich makes the goal of eliminating the virus by 2030 more difficult.

The treatment of hepatitis C

The progress made in the medical field today allows us to treat hepatitis C. As reported in the press release from the Higher Institute of Health dated 5 February 2024, Italy is the European country with the highest number of patients treated for hepatitis C. “Since 2015, approximately 260,000 patients that have completely eliminated the virus, significantly reducing the social and health burden of the disease – we read in the press release – This result has already made it possible to achieve the WHO objective of reducing HCV-related mortality by 65 percent”. On the topic Marcello NavieraWHO representative, said: “It can be stated that in Italy the elimination of HCV is an achievable objective”.

The importance of screening

The attention placed by the WHO onhepatitis Ccombined with the results obtained from scientific research, impose the need to lower the number of unaware carriers of the virus. “Statistically – said the professor Massimo Andreoni, scientific director of the Italian Society of Infectious and Tropical Diseases (Simit) – in 60-85 percent of cases, hepatitis C virus infection becomes chronic. The acute disease, often asymptomatic, is commonly diagnosed many years after infection, and can lead to complications such as cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma and liver failure.”

It is therefore necessary to obtain “one early diagnosis and timely treatment” in order to “avoid the progressive and potentially fatal worsening of the condition”. Thanks to screening in progress, “were intercepted and processed further 10 thousand active infectionspart of the so-called hidden economy”, added Andreoni, not failing to point out, however, that there is still a lot to do to reach the goal of eliminating hepatitis C by 2030.