Hepatitis is a medical condition characterized by inflammation of the liver which often leads to other complications such as jaundice, anorexia, liver failure and cirrhosis. Hepatitis is generally of two types- acute when it lasts for less than six months and chronic when it lasts for longer period. It can be caused by a group of viruses called as hepatitis viruses which include groups A, B, C, D, and E. The most observed types of this disease are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Globally, 350 million people are chronically infected with any one form of hepatitis and around 500,000 people die every year according to World Health Organization.
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Hepatitis A is a simpler form of which does not lead to chronic infections. Patients suffering from hepatitis A recover within two months as this form is less complicated and can be prevented with vaccination. Although hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccination, once infected, a person can develop lifelong chronic infection resulting into severe liver damage. More than 2 billion people of the global population are infected with hepatitis B. Hepatitis C is most dangerous of among all the types of hepatitis as 80% of the hepatitis C infected patients get chronically infected. Around 150 million people are infected with hepatitis C worldwide and 350,000 people die every year. No vaccine is yet available for prevention of hepatitis C.
Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E can be diagnosed by combinations of various specific tests containing enzymes, antibodies and antigens. These are: enzyme immunoassay (EIA), recombinant immunoblot assay (RIBA), transcription-mediated amplification (TMA) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The EIA technology is used for antibody as well as antigen detection whereas the other technologies are used to test DNA and RNA to check the presence of hepatitis viruses.
Hepatitis A and E are mainly caused by consumption of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B, C and D occur as a result of contact with infected body fluids. Common modes of transmission and infection for these viruses include receipt of infected blood or blood products, invasive medical procedures using contaminated equipments. Hepatitis B can be transmitted from mother to baby at the time of birth and by sexual contact. Prevalence of hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C in North American countries is 33%, 5% and 1.5% respectively. Thus, North America has registered the highest cases of hepatitis infections followed by Asia-Pacific and then Europe.
Some of the key players involved in the development of diagnostics for hepatitis are Siemens AG, MedMira Inc., Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Abbott Laboratories.
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