Despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine for over 20 years now, HBV-infection remains an important health problem. More than two billion people worldwide have been in contact with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and around 400 million are chronically infected. The annual number of deaths from HBV-associated liver disease - mainly cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) - is more than 800,000. An estimated 0.4% of the Dutch population, about 64.000 persons, are chronically infected with the virus. The treatment of chronic HBV-infection has much improved over the past decades. Currently, entecavir and tenofovir are the most commonly used HBV drugs that are highly effective in suppressing the virus, but elimination of HBV by these drugs is rare. Many novel candidate HBV drugs are currently under development and in clinical trials.
The studies that are being conducted and that coordinated by the SLO are aimed at:
- providing a better understanding of the immunology and immunopathogenesis of HBV
- defining biomarkers for HBV disease progression and treatment outcome
- examining the efficacy of novel antiviral compounds in clinical trials, using clinical and virological outcome paramaters
- examining the immune effects of novel antiviral compounds on immune parameters in blood and liver using fine needle aspirates (FNA)