Gilead Science grants a project in Lleida to screen for hepatitis D in a migrant population with a high prevalence of hepatitis B.

The study, endowed with nearly 30,000 €, will allow direct action on public health improvement.

The biotechnology company Gilead Sciences has awarded a grant to a project in Lleida to screen for hepatitis D in a migrant population with high hepatitis B prevalence. The research led by the physician of the University Hospital Arnau de Vilanova (HUAV) and researcher of the Clinical and Experimental Research in Digestive and Hematological Pathology group of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine of Lleida (IRBLleida), Patricia Huelin Alvarez, has received about 30,000 € from the "Sixth Edition of Gilead Grants to Projects of microelimination in Hepatitis C and epidemiology of Hepatitis D".

"The diagnosis of viral hepatitis virus infection continues to be a worldwide public health challenge despite the efforts made, with a large number of people still unaware of their infection status. This fact undoubtedly hinders the elimination and reduction of associated morbidity and mortality in order to achieve the objectives proposed by the WHO for 2030", explained the researcher.

For this reason, the project will design a rapid screening and referral circuit for follow-up and treatment; describe the actual prevalence of hepatitis D in the migrant population, as well as the risk factors and characteristics of the affected population; and increase knowledge and awareness of hepatitis D in general and in susceptible populations.

Chronic delta hepatitis (CDHV) is a severe form of chronic viral hepatitis and results in high mortality through the development of cirrhosis and hepatocarcinoma. HDV is defective and requires the presence of hepatitis B surface antigen to function. Although clinical practice guidelines recommend HDV screening in all patients with hepatitis B, it is not routinely performed. Therefore, this project will promote the rapid diagnostic circuit to gynecology and obstetrics, nephrology, addictions, HIV and digestive system consultations.

The province of Lleida has a higher percentage of migrant population from Africa and Eastern countries due to the high agricultural production and the need for seasonal workers. "The migrant population, although considered to be a healthy population, can have a high prevalence of infectious diseases due to the high exposure to their country of origin," said Huelin. The research team is made up of a group of professionals in the field of hepatology with extensive experience in the healthcare and scientific fields. In the healthcare field, the team manages the monographic consultations and hospitalization wards of the Arnau de Vilanova University Hospital.

Spain is one of the countries leading the elimination of hepatitis C (HCV) and could become one of the first in the world to achieve it. However, to achieve this, it is necessary to implement initiatives aimed at improving prevention, early diagnosis and treatment and comprehensive management of patients with the C virus. This is compounded by chronic hepatitis D, which affects patients infected with hepatitis B virus, and which is associated with a more rapid progression to liver fibrosis and cirrhosis and an increased risk of liver cancer and death. Today, there are still many patients who remain undiagnosed due, in part, to limited knowledge of the disease, the limited availability of reliable and easily implemented automated diagnostic methods in microbiology services, and the historical lack of effective treatments, which makes physicians less likely to test for disease, leaving an unmet medical need and research projects in this area.

Gilead Sciences, as part of its commitment to research in the field of liver diseases, together with the Spanish Association for the Study of the Liver (AEHH), promotes this call for Gilead Grants for projects on microelimination in Hepatitis C and epidemiology of Hepatitis D. In this sixth edition, a total of 23 projects have been evaluated, of which 14 have been awarded grants covering the total amount of 350,000 euros.

Awarding of the scholarship to Patricia Huelin Alvarez