Hepatitis is a general term that means inflammation of the liver. The liver can become inflamed as a result of infection, or exposure to alcohol, certain medications, toxins, or poisons. Hepatitis B is caused by infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV).
How Common Is Hepatitis B?
Approximately 350 million individuals worldwide are chronically (long duration) infected with this virus. As a result, the complications of hepatitis B viral infection lead to two million deaths annually.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC, USA) the highest rate of infection occurs among those 20 to 49 years old. At present time approximately 1.25 million people in the U.S. are carriers of the hepatitis B virus.
Only about 50% of the people with acute hepatitis B, however, have symptoms (are symptomatic). The other 50% don't know that they have contracted the infection (are asymptomatic, i.e. without symptoms).
HBV accounts for 5-10% of cases of chronic end-stage liver disease and 10-15% of cases of hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer). HBV is blamed for 5000 deaths in the USA annually.
How is Hepatitis B infection spread?
Hepatitis B is spread by infected blood and other bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal secretions, saliva, open sores, and breast milk.
What Happens to People With Hepatitis B?
This hepatitis B infection has 2 phases: acute and chronic.
- Acute (new, short-term) hepatitis B occurs shortly after exposure to the virus.
In most cases, hepatitis B causes limited infection. Usually people manage to fight off the infection successfully within a few months, developing an immunity that lasts a lifetime.
(This means you won't get acute hepatitis B again.) Blood tests show evidence of this immunity, but no signs of active infection.
- Chronic (ongoing, long-term) hepatitis B is an infection with HBV that lasts longer than 6 months. Once the infection becomes chronic, it may never go away completely.
It means that some people don't get rid of the infection. If you are infected with hepatitis B for more than 6 months, you are considered a carrier, even if you have no symptoms.
This means that you can transmit the disease to others by having unprotected sex, deep kissing, or sharing food or drinks. Being a carrier also means that your liver may be more prone to injury.
Chronic hepatitis is an ongoing infection of the liver that can lead to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis causes liver tissue to scar and stop working.
Approximately 4%-7% of infected adults and children over the age of 5 with hepatitis B infection go on to develop chronic infection (see the Figure). These rates climb much higher for infected children younger than 5 (30%) and even higher for infants infected at birth (90%).
About 85-95% of people who are infected with hepatitis B virus are able to fight off the virus so their infection never becomes chronic. Only about 4-7 percent of adults infected with HBV go on to develop chronic infection.
People with chronic HBV infection are called chronic carriers. About two-thirds of these people do not themselves get sick or die of the virus (Inactive carrier stage, see the Figure), but they can transmit it to other people.
The remaining one third (4-7 percent) develops chronic hepatitis B, a disease of the liver that can be very serious.
However in some circumstance inactive carriers also may go to progressive chronic hepatitis.
The liver has an incredible ability to heal itself, but it can only heal itself if nothing is damaging it. Liver damage in chronic hepatitis B, if not stopped, continues until the liver becomes hardened and scarlike.
This stage is called cirrhosis, a condition traditionally associated with alcoholism. When this happens, the liver can no longer carry out its normal functions, a condition called liver failure. Up to 40% of patients with chronic hepatitis B may develop cirrhosis.
Chronic hepatitis B also can lead to a type of liver cancer known as hepatocellular carcinoma. Any of these conditions (i.e. cirrhosis, liver cancer) can be fatal. About 15-25 percent of people with chronic hepatitis B die of liver disease.
Our six year clinical experience shows that transplantations of cultured hepatoblasts and hepatocytes (cell therapy) depending on a stage of hepatitis B infection may:
- transform chronic hepatitis B infection into inactive carrier stage;
- prevent progression of HBV infection to cirrhosis;
- result in significant reversal of preexisting cirrhosis.
In some cases combination treatment may be necesary (i.e. cell therapy plus medicinal treatment and/or immunotherapy)
Synonyms and related keywords: HBV, hepatitis B virus, hepatitis B infection, viral hepatitis, chronic hepatitis, acute hepatitis, cirrhosis, fulminant hepatitis, hepatocellular carcinoma,
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