Published online Feb 27, 2011. doi: 10.4254/wjh.v3.i2.31
Revised: December 13, 2010
Accepted: December 20, 2010
Published online: February 27, 2011
Despite being ten times more common than HIV infection, viral hepatitis has so far not commanded the same public health response worldwide, so a global viral hepatitis treatment program is still a long way from becoming a reality. However, much progress has occurred over the last few decades, with the screening of blood products, sound infection control practices and the introduction of disposable needles and syringes leading to significant reductions in nosocomial hepatitis B transmission in the developed world and increasingly in other countries. The introduction of hepatitis B vaccination in the 1980s and its integration into the Expanded Immunization Program have led to substantial reductions in chronic hepatitis B infection rates in children and to millions of lives saved. The availability of effective antiviral treatment has revolutionized treatment prospects, although access to treatment remains a significant challenge for most developed countries and remains out of reach for developing nations. Some of these breakthroughs have occurred in Asian countries, others in the West, but their unifying features are innovative research, timely clinical translation and a commitment to apply their findings to improve the health of populations, not just individuals. This paper reviews some of the challenges and opportunities for hepatitis B control at the end of the first decade of the third millennium and argues for closer East - West collaborations, to bring in fresh perspectives, avoid duplications of effort and in order to help answer many of the remaining challenges in making hepatitis B history.