February 15, 2012
Major breakthroughs in hepatitis C treatment are of no help to the estimated 500,000 UK residents who are unaware they are infected. A poor understanding of who is at risk for hepatitis C means many who could be treated are not, said Mark Wright, a consultant hepatologist at Southampton General Hospital.
"Hepatitis C is a tricky virus which often results in liver damage before it causes any symptoms so, with most of the estimated half-a-million affected people in the UK unaware they have the disease, it is easy to see we are on dangerous ground," said Wright.
"Yet the tragedy of all this is that, while we are not seeing the large numbers of people we know are infected coming forward due to ongoing poor understanding of the risks, treatments continue to get better and stronger yet may, sadly, go to waste if we can't get this vital message through," Wright noted. "We run the risk of seeing an entire generation lose their chance to live a fit, long and healthy life, in the worst possible circumstances, when the treatment is there and available for those who recognize they are vulnerable."
Two new hepatitis C drugs, telaprevir and boceprevir, will be rolled out by the National Health Service later this year. Southampton is participating in a series of studies of the drugs at the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility.