Bengaluru : Manipal Institute of Virology (MIV) organized an online international webinar on World Hepatitis Day, in the honour of Dr. Baruch Blumberg, a Nobel Laureate, well known for his exceptional work on the discovery of Hepatitis B virus and vaccine, jointly with Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and Department of Immunohematology and Blood Transfusion of Kasturba Medical College (KMC), Manipal on 28th July and the webinar was attended by more than 300 participants across the globe.
The webinar featured expert talks from scientists across the globe. Dr. Sharath Kumar Rao, Dean and Professor, KMC, MAHE, Manipal stated that “this day marks the celebration of the progress made against hepatitis”. The Chief Guest of the webinar, Lt. Gen. (Dr.) M.D. Venkatesh, Vice-Chancellor, MAHE inaugurated the session and addressed the participants emphasizing this year’s theme, “Hepatitis Can’t-Wait!”. He also mentioned the importance of awareness programs and webinars in sending a message against Hepatitis during this pandemic period and the global objective of eliminating Hepatitis by 2030. Dr. Chiranjay Mukhopadhyay, Director, MIV gave a brief overview of the achievements of MIV and KMC in quality research. He also spoke about the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of quality-assured serological tests, the dearth of low-cost virological in-vitro diagnostics, and limited facilities for testing hepatitis.
Dr. Shiran Shetty, Professor, and Head of, Department of Gastroenterology, KMC, MAHE, Manipal intrigued the crowd with ‘Case capsules on Hepatitis-B related liver diseases. Dr. Shetty enlightened the participants about the mitigation of Hepatitis A and D viral infections with equitable emphasis on sanitation practices. He explained the phases of chronic Hepatitis B infections, the complications like cirrhosis associated with chronic HCV infections, and the dynamicity of hepatotropic infections. He spoke about how surveillance and monitoring are indispensable for keeping these infections in check.
Dr. Pradip Devhare, Assistant Professor, MIV, MAHE, Manipal, presented an elaborative overview about ‘COVID-19 and Liver disease’. He started off by giving statistical data showing liver disease causes 2 million deaths/year worldwide, out of which 1 million deaths are due to liver cirrhosis and the remaining deaths are due to viral hepatitis and hepatocellular carcinoma. India accounts for 1/5th (18.3%) of all cirrhosis deaths globally. Chronic injury to the liver may be due to viral infection, alcohol consumption, obesity, drug-induced injuries, etc. He discussed the hepato-tropism of SARS-CoV-2 and the potential mechanisms of COVID-19 associated liver injury based on clinical and experimental data. Dr. Devhare presented some case studies where the mortality rates of COVID-19 infected patients with Chronic Liver Disease (CLD) were compared with that of patients without CLD. Case reports where Hepatitis B virus reactivation was observed after the administration of immunomodulatory drugs were also discussed. He expressed concern that due to the pandemic and lockdown restrictions the surveillance of CLD patients has been reduced and that the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines must be studied in patients with CLDs. He concluded that “according to mathematical models, a 1-year delay of Hepatitis C treatment administration may yield a mortality up to 44,800 because of hepatocellular carcinoma and 72,300 liver-related deaths”.
Dr. Shyamasundaran Kottilil, Professor of Medicine and Co-director, Institute of Human Virology (IHV), University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD, USA, presented a detailed ‘Historical perspective of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)’, with milestones such as the first description of non-A and non B hepatitis in 1975, followed by the first confirmation of transmissible agent in non-A, non-B hepatitis in 1978; the first report of treatment with interferon-α in 1986; discovery, identification and isolation of HCV and antibody in 1989 by Alter and Houghton; cloning of infectious HCV in 1997; to the awarding of Nobel prize to Harvey Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles Rice in 2020 for their work on Hepatitis C. Dr. Kottilil explained the progression of HCV in hepatocytes, its mechanism of escaping the immune system, and how it exists as quasispecies. “Hepatitis C is a major prevalent disease and 1% of the global population is at risk. It is the major cause for liver transplant in patients”, quoted Dr. Kottilil. He emphasized that “Hepatitis C is curable and can be treated even after reinfection by Directly Activating Antivirals (DAA) for viral clearance”.
The highly interactive webinar was concluded by Dr. Piya Paul Mudgal, Associate Professor, MIV, MAHE, Manipal which was attended by 300 participants across the globe.