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Birmingham Children's Hospital
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New Birmingham Children’s Hospital led study points to potential cure for hepatitis related liver disease in young people

Birmingham Children's Hospital

A study of young people with childhood acquired hepatitis C, led by Birmingham Children’s Hospital liver experts, has shown that serious long-term liver damage could be prevented through the early use of antiviral therapy.

Hepatitis C is one of the most widespread transmittable viruses in the world, affecting over 185 million people worldwide and 215,000 in the UK. 350,000 of these die each year - 84,000 from Europe.

Cases in young people are mainly contracted from their mother at birth or through intravenous drug use. One in three of these cases leads to chronic liver disease, end-stage cirrhosis and liver cancer, increasing the risk of liver-related death by 26 times.

Dr Line Modin, Research Fellow in the Liver Unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, the first author of the study, said:

"Our study showed that more than one-third of young people infected with hepatitis C in childhood have serious long-term liver disease, so detection of the virus should be aimed at relevant risk groups, particularly young intravenous drug abusers."

New drugs, currently available to UK adults through the NHS, are 90-100% successful in clearing the infection and preventing serious liver disease, but are not yet available for children.  

Professor Deirdre Kelly, who leads the world-renowned liver unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and led this study, is calling on pharmaceutical companies to accelerate clinical trials of antiviral therapy. She said:

“Our study highlights how important it is that clinical trials of antiviral therapy are performed in children, to develop clear treatment guidelines to prevent long-term liver disease."

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