Viral hepatitis in India
Viral hepatitis is a major public health problem in India, which is hyperendemic for HAV and HEV. Seroprevalence studies reveal that 90%-100% of the population acquires anti-HAV antibody and becomes immune by adolescence. Many epidemics of HEV have been reported from India. HAV related liver disease is uncommon in India and occurs mainly in children. HEV is also the major cause of sporadic adult acute viral hepatitis and ALF. Pregnant women and patients with CLD constitute the high risk groups to contract HEV infection, and HEV-induced mortality among them is substantial, which underlines the need for preventive measures for such groups. Children with HAV and HEV coinfection are prone to develop ALF. India has intermediate HBV endemicity, with a carrier frequency of 2%-4%. HBV is the major cause of CLD and HCC. Chronic HBV infection in India is acquired in childhood, presumably before 5 years of age, through horizontal transmission. Vertical transmission of HBV in India is considered to be infrequent. Inclusion of HBV vaccination in the expanded programme of immunization is essential to reduce the HBV carrier frequency and disease burden. HBV genotypes A and D are prevalent in India, which are similar to the HBV genotypes in the West. HCV infection in India has a population prevalence of around 1%, and occurs predominantly through transfusion and the use of unsterile glass syringes. HCV genotypes 3 and 2 are prevalent in 60%-80% of the population and they respond well to a combination of interferon and ribavirin. About 10%-15% of CLD and HCC are associated with HCV infection in India. HCV infection is also a major cause of post-transfusion hepatitis. HDV infection is infrequent in India and is present about 5%-10% of patients with HBV-related liver disease. HCC appears to be less common in India than would be expected from the prevalence rates of HBV and HCV. The high disease burden of viral hepatitis and related CLD in India, calls for the setting up of a hepatitis registry and formulation of government-supported prevention and control strategies.