(KPL) More than 100 researchers and health professionals from Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, India, the Philippines, Australia, France and, for the first time, China met in Vientiane Capital on Nov 27-29 to lay the foundations for a regional network to fight chronic hepatitis, a major public health issue in the Greater Mekong River Basin.

Organized by the Center of Infectiology Lao Christophe Mérieux, the Lao Ministry of Health, in partnership with the Mérieux Foundation and the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), this new edition of the Symposium on Viral Hepatitis will provide an opportunity for experts to continue the discussions initiated during previous editions, share knowledge and compare data. Major organizations such as Inserm, Institut Pasteur, Médecins Sans Frontières and WHO, as well as representatives of the Ministries of Health of participating countries, will present the latest advances and challenges encountered in their fight against hepatitis.

The meeting aims to encourage national and regional policy-makers to increase their political and financial commitments to the fight against hepatitis.

The topics will be approached through 7 thematic sessions dedicated to chronic viral hepatitis, from innovations in patient care to new challenges. Several successful studies and initiatives to eliminate hepatitis C virus in different countries will also be presented.

The final day of the symposium will be devoted to real-life practice, guidelines and research and feature a round table on the countries’ recommendations regarding international reference guidelines.

The organization of the symposium is supported by many partners involved locally in the fight against hepatitis: the Centre de recherche en cancérologie de Lyon, the University of Paris 13, the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, with the support of Gilead Sciences, FIND (Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics), the Coclican project (Collaborative Consortium for the early detection of Liver Cancer) and the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie.

Viral hepatitis B and C: a major threat to public health affecting more than 320 million people worldwide (250 million for hepatitis B and 71 million for hepatitis C), causing 1.4 million deaths per year.

Hepatitis has become the number one deadly infectious disease, ahead of tuberculosis, HIV and malaria.

Hepatitis B and C are responsible for more than 80% of hepatocarcinomas (primary liver cancers) worldwide, particularly in Asia and Africa. Hepatocarcinoma is the fastest growing cancer in the world.

Hepatitis can be prevented, treated and, in the case of hepatitis C, cured. However, more than 80% of people with hepatitis do not have access to prevention, screening or treatment services. One of the most significant paradoxes around hepatitis is that the cost of treatment has dropped dramatically in developing countries due to generic drugs, but it is now the cost of diagnosis that is becoming a limiting factor.

KPL