Further research into hepatitis viruses is urgently needed. That is the clear message from Associate Professor Heidi Drummer on her election as President of the Australian Centre for Hepatitis Virology (ACHV).
Associate Professor Drummer, who is also Burnet’s Program Director of Disease Elimination, said that an effective hepatitis B vaccine (HBV) had led to misconceptions that further HBV research is unnecessary. However, more than 257 million people are infected with HBV and it accounts for more than 800,000 deaths each year.
“Ongoing research is urgently required to identify better antivirals that can cure hepatitis B, and more research is required on HBV vaccination and efficacy,” Associate Professor Drummer said.
Effective treatments for hepatitis C virus (HCV) had also led to a view that more hepatitis C research was not needed, she said.
“Over 350,000 people die each year from HCV, and over 70 million people are thought to be actively infected,” Associate Professor Drummer said.
“Direct acting antivirals have revolutionised treatment of those currently infected with cure rates of over 95 percent. However a vaccine to prevent HCV and rapid point-of-care diagnostics to detect active infection have not been developed.
“A combined approach of testing, treatment, vaccination and on-going harm reduction is essential if we are to meet the World Health Organization’s 2030 Elimination targets.”
Associate Professor Drummer is renowned for her landmark research into hepatitis C, and her laboratory conducts studies into HCV with a special focus on the development of a vaccine.
Find out more about the hepatitis vaccine development research underway at Burnet.
Australian Centre for Hepatitis Virology
The ACHV evolved from an annual meeting held in 1989 at Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital in Melbourne. Since 1994, an annual meeting has been held as a forum for scientists investigating hepatitis viruses to discuss research and establish collaborations.
The ACHV awards prizes to students and early career researchers to attend international meetings, distributes prizes for presentations at national meetings, and provides support to relevant scientific meetings and symposia.
Associate Professor Drummer said as president she would advocate for funding towards viral hepatitis at a national and state level, promote the efforts of researchers in viral hepatitis, and represent the Australian hepatitis research community at national and international events.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease. It is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus and ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Also blood-borne, hepatitis C can be spread through unsafe injection practices or unsafe health practices.