Extremely resistant to environmental influences: what makes hepatitis B so dangerous

Stable pathogen: Why hepatitis B is so dangerous

Hepatitis B is one of the most common infectious diseases. The hepatitis B virus can cause both acute and chronic liver disease. The problem is that the dangerous pathogen is extremely resistant to environmental influences.

Almost 300 million people infected worldwide

Hepatitis viruses have been plaguing mankind for thousands of years: When examining 7,000-year-old skeletons, researchers at the University of Kiel recently found a strain of ancient hepatitis B viruses. Today around 290 million people worldwide are chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus. This makes hepatitis B one of the most common infectious diseases. The pathogen can cause both acute and chronic liver disease. Because of the consequences of serious liver diseases, the virus costs many lives every year.

Infections again and again

Hepatitis B viruses (HBV) are contagious at room temperature for weeks and even defy the cold at four degrees Celsius for nine months, reports the Ruhr University Bochum in a message.

Hepatitis B is mainly transmitted through blood contact.

"It should actually be manageable with suitable hygiene measures," said Prof. Dr. Eike Steinmann from the Department of Molecular and Medical Virology at the RUB.

But it happens again and again that people get infected with the hepatitis B virus in the hospital or in professional situations.

So far, researchers have had to resort to the duck hepatitis B virus, a relative of the human virus, in search of the reasons for this.

"However, these studies only permit limited reliable assessments of the infectivity of HBV," explains Steinmann.

The scientist and his colleagues now used an HBV infection system in human liver cells that had recently been developed at the Pasteur Korea Institute in Seoul to achieve realistic results.

Usual hand disinfectants work

With this model, the researchers were able to show that HBV barely loses infectivity at room temperature after weeks and is also very stable at four degrees Celsius for nine months.

"Different types of alcohol and commercially available hand disinfectants inactivate the viruses," says Eike Steinmann.

“However, diluting the disinfectants overruled the inactivating activity. Fortunately, diluting disinfectants is very unusual in practice. ”

The researchers advise that hygiene guidelines be strictly observed in order to prevent HBV infections in the future.

The results of the experts were published in the specialist journal "Journal of Infectious Diseases". (ad)

Author and source information

Video: Stanfords Dr. Stephanie Chao Discusses Hepatitis B and Liver Cancer (January 2022).