People Infected with Hepatitis D Have an Almost Threefold Risk of Developing Liver Cancer

People infected with Hepatitis D have up to three times the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma compared to those infected only with Hepatitis B. As a result, researchers of a commentary published in the Journal of Hepatology, plead for systematic screening of Hepatitis D in patients with Hepatitis B in order, on the one hand, to better manage patients and, on the other hand, to better understand the real prevalence of the disease.

“The most serious consequence of Hepatitis B and D is hepatocellular carcinoma, explains Francesco Negro, Professor at the Department of Pathology and Immunology of UNIGE Faculty of Medicine and Head of the HUG Viropathology Unit. It was already known that co-infection of Hepatitis B and D accelerates the progression of cirrhosis. However, to what extent co-infection of Hepatitis B and D accelerates the progression towards this particularly aggressive liver cancer? This remained to be evaluated.”

“To find out whether Hepatitis D is even more dangerous than B, we carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of all epidemiological studies, explains Dulce Alfaiate, a researcher at the Department of Pathology and Immunology of UNIGE Faculty of Medicine and first author of this work. To do this, we re-examined the data presented in 93 studies, representing a total of more than 100,000 patients. Although not all these studies are of similar quality, the analysis of the best of them is very clear: patients with Hepatitis D have an almost threefold risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma compared to those with Hepatitis B alone. That’s huge!”

The authors conclude: “Our work underlines the need to improve Hepatitis D screening in Hepatitis B patients and the urgent need for effective antiviral therapies, such as the one against Hepatitis C, which has saved the lives of millions of people since 2011.”