More than 180 million people in the world have hepatitis C, compared with the 34 million with HIV/AIDS and the roughly 30,000 who have had Ebola, scientists say. Yet very little is heard about the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the way of awareness campaigns, research funding or celebrity fundraisers, researchers said.
One of the global regions highly affected by hepatitis C is West Africa. In developed countries, hepatitis C, a blood-borne disease, is transmitted through intravenous (IV) drug use. In West Africa, we believe that there are many transmission modes and they are not through IV drug use, but through cultural and every day practices," said Jennifer Layden, principal investigator on the study from Loyola University Health System.
"In this study, tribal scarring, home birthing and traditional as opposed to hospital based circumcision procedures, were associated with hepatitis C infection in Ghana," said Layden. The study was conducted by HepNet, an international multidisciplinary group of physicians and scientists.
The other important finding was that a high percentage of individuals who tested positive for HCV had evidence of active infection. Discovering the source of the disease and a target population, she said, will aid in the next step of the research: how to protect and prevent the disease in Ghana. Hepatitis C is a chronic disease and leads to chronic liver disease, liver cancer and liver cirrhosis. Overall, worldwide rates of liver cancer is on the rise, whereas many other cancers are on the decline or steady.