To discuss disease prevention and control strategies, including vaccines, in Seoul, Sept. 15-16
SEOUL, Korea – The International Vaccine Institute (IVI) will host the first International Symposium on Hepatitis E, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and with sponsorship from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at the IVI headquarters in Seoul from September 15-16, 2010.
More than 30 leading experts from Asia, Europe, Africa, and the United States as well as IVI scientists will gather to discuss current data on hepatitis E epidemiology, disease burden, diagnostics, and vaccines. Key speakers at the symposium include Dr. John D. Clemens, Director-General of the IVI; Dr. Steven Wiersma in charge of hepatitis prevention at the Expanded Programme on Immunization, WHO; Dr. Robert H. Purcell, chief of the hepatitis viruses section, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH); and Dr. John W. Ward, director of the viral hepatitis division at the National Center for HIV/ AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, the U.S. CDC.
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is the most common cause of enterically transmitted hepatitis in the developing world. Infection with HEV can cause severe and prolonged illness, including fever, jaundice, and nausea. It is estimated that the number of HEV cases worldwide could be 3 to 4 million a year, and globally, HEV is thought to be responsible for 50,000 to 100,000 deaths annually. Pregnant women are at significantly increased risk.
Currently, no specific treatment for HEV infection is available. However, HEV still remains a neglected disease, even in light of the fact that several promising and highly effective HEV vaccines candidates exist. This is partly because the HEV disease burden remains undefined in many developing countries. Poor diagnostics and reporting have contributed to the lack of solid data about the disease.
|Participants are engaged in discussions about strategies, including vaccines, to tackle hepatitis E, an infectious disease that primarily afflicts populations in developing countries, during the first International Hepatitis E Symposium hosted by the IVI at the institute’s headquarters in Seoul on September 15. The two-day conference was attended by more than 30 leading experts worldwide, including those from the World Health Organization, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as IVI scientists.
Against this backdrop, the symposium aims to establish an international consortium to accelerate the development and implementation of strategies for hepatitis E virus control, which includes vaccines. Participants will also discuss prevention measures through standardized approaches that will facilitate the evaluation of disease endemicity, and vaccine availability and effectiveness in endemic countries.
“Due to lack of preventive drugs and specific antiviral therapy, prevention of hepatitis E through vaccination has the greatest impact, especially compared to other preventive measures, such as improvements in water, sanitation, health and living conditions, which are effective but are difficult to implement and costly,” said Dr. Michael Favorov, Deputy Director-General of the IVI.
Hepatitis E was first recognized in India in the 1980s, and epidemics have since been reported in Central- and South-East Asia, West Africa, the Middle East, Central America, and some European countries. The highest rates of hepatitis E occur in regions with poor standards of environmental sanitation. HEV is transmitted primarily person-to-person through the fecal-oral route. Since hepatitis E is a waterborne disease, consumption of contaminated water and ingestion of raw or uncooked food are major risk factors for transmission of HEV.
HEV can also spread zoonotically since animals, such as pigs, cows, sheep, goats, and rodents, are susceptible to infection with the virus. In developing countries, symptomatic infections are most common among young adults from 15 to 40 years of age, whereas in developed countries, symptomatic infections are observed more often among people aged 45 years or older. HEV infections in children appear frequently, but are at most times asymptomatic. Notably, pregnant women with HEV infection are more likely to experience severe illness, with a mortality rate of 5 percent to 25 percent.
As mentioned in a recent editorial in The Lancet, it is anticipated that the International Symposium on Hepatitis E will attract attention to a disease that has been under the radar for too long, and will generate strategies for the much-needed development and delivery of HEV vaccines.
“The symposium will enable the participants to generate research and public health impact agendas, and set strategies for accelerated development and implementation of HEV vaccines,” Dr. John D. Clemens said. “This symposium will become a platform for future cooperation among world experts to accelerate the development of strategies for hepatitis E control.”
The International Vaccine Institute (IVI) is the world’s only international organization devoted exclusively to developing and introducing new and improved vaccines for the world’s poorest people, especially children in developing countries. Established as an initiative of the United Nations Development Program in 1997, the IVI operates under a treaty signed by 40 countries and the World Health Organization. The IVI conducts research in more than 30 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America on vaccines against diarrheal infections, bacterial meningitis and pneumonia, Japanese encephalitis, dengue fever and more. For further information, please visit: www.ivi.int