Viral hepatitis

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver, which is often caused by viruses. Our work at the Kirby Institute has a particular focus on hepatitis B and hepatitis C — which are the most common forms of hepatitis viruses in Australia.

Hepatitis B and C are blood-borne viruses. They most commonly transmitted from sharing or reusing injecting equipment, sharing of personal items (like razors), mother to child transmission, tattoos and through sexual contact. 
There are approximately 232,200 people living with hepatitis B in Australia and an estimated 227,306 people living with hepatitis C. Globally, more than 300 million people are living with chronic hepatitis B or C.

In Australia, children are vaccinated against hepatitis B and we now have medications that can control hepatitis B and cure hepatitis C, however these viruses remain a considerable public health challenge, and stigma and discrimination are experienced by the populations most affected by hepatitis B and C: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people who inject drugs and prisoners.

People living with hepatitis B and C in low and middle income countries are also an important focus for our research.

At the Kirby Institute, our research on hepatitis B and C encompasses immunology, virology, surveillance, epidemiology, prevention and treatment. In the lab, we use an interdisciplinary approach to better understand the relationship between pathogen, host and environment.

Our hepatitis C clinical trials have contributed to global guidelines on the treatment for hepatitis C, particularly among people who inject drugs. In Australia, our SToP-C trial is the first large-scale treatment-as-prevention trial for hepatitis C worldwide and we conduct annual surveys on the Australian Needle and Syringe Program, which provide valuable data to inform health policy and service design.

Our research process involves close partnerships with affected communities—and together we are working towards the elimination of hepatitis C in Australia by 2026.

Our viral hepatitis research strengths