- The Italian recommendations for the therapy of hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related disease were issued in 2008. Subsequently in 2008 the nucleotide analogue (NA) Tenofovir was approved for antiviral treatment. The introduction of this important new drug has called for the current guidelines update, which includes some additional revisions: (a) the indication for therapy is extended to mild liver fibrosis and the indication for treatment is graded as “possible”, “optional” or “mandatory” according to the fibrosis stage; (b) two different treatment strategies are described: first line definite duration treatment with interferon, long-term treatment of indefinite duration with NA; (c) the indication to follow either strategy is also based on the stage of liver fibrosis; (d) virological monitoring is modified to include the definitions of failure and of sustained virological response to interferon therapy; (e) the recommendation to use HBV DNA assays with high sensitivity and wide linear ranges is underlined (f) guidelines on post-treatment follow-up after finite treatment with NA, potential side effects of therapy and non-virological monitoring are defined; (g) definitions and treatment of patients without optimal response to NA are reported; (f) treatment and monitoring of compensated or decompensated cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma are updated.
- The global spread of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV), their high chronicity rates and their progression to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, are major public health problems. Research and intervention programmes for special population groups are needed in order to assess their infection risk and set up suitable prevention and control strategies. Aim of this paper is to give health care professionals information on HBV and HCV infections amongst migrants, drug users and prison inmates.
- It is increasingly clear that a tailored therapeutic approach to patients with hepatitis C virus infection is needed. Success rates in difficult to treat and low-responsive hepatitis C virus patients are not completely satisfactory, and there is the need to optimise treatment duration and intensity in patients with the highest likelihood of response. In addition, the management of special patient categories originally excluded from phase III registration trials needs to be critically re-evaluated.
- The changing scenario of hepatitis B virus therapy has encouraged the organisation of a workshop, endorsed by three Italian scientific societies, aimed at defining the current recommendations for hepatitis B virus treatment. Liver histology and stage of disease remain fundamental for treatment decisions; interferon and nucleoside/nucleotide analogues-based therapy represent different strategies for different phases of the hepatitis B virus disease. The recommendations defined: new and lower cut-off of hepatitis B virus–DNA for eligibility to therapy according to disease stage, how to optimise the use of nucleoside/nucleotide analogues and to individualise the monitoring of response and what to do with treatment failures.
- The literature on hepatitis B virus (HBV) in immunocompromised patients is heterogeneous and referred mainly to the pre-antivirals era. Today a rational approach to the problem of hepatitis B in these patients provides for: (a) the evaluation of HBV markers and of liver condition in all subjects starting immunosuppressive therapies (baseline), (b) the treatment with antivirals (therapy) of active carriers, (c) the pre-emptive use of antivirals (prophylaxis) in inactive carriers, especially if they are undergoing immunosuppressive therapies judged to be at high risk, (d) the biochemical and hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) monitoring (or universal prophylaxis, in case of high risk immunosuppression) in subjects with markers of previous contact with HBV (HBsAg negative and anti-HBc positive), in order to prevent reverse seroconversion.
- Incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma has been rising in the last two decades because of the wide exposure to hepatitis C virus during 1960s and 1970s. Improvement in treatment has been achieved by local ablative therapies, however because of early recurrence and lack of effective chemotherapies, alternative treatments based on stimulation of the anti-tumour immune response could represent new strategies to control hepatocellular carcinoma spread and recurrence. Proof of principle of an effective immunotherapy has been achieved for other solid tumours such as melanoma and several results could be transferred to the immunotherapy of hepatocellular carcinoma.