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27 Aug 2020

Data reveals link between invasive pneumococcal disease and hepatitis C

Adults with hepatitis C are five times more likely to be diagnosed with invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) than the general population, researchers have revealed in an article published by Oxford University Press.

IPD is a severe and invasive form of pneumococcal infections that often presents as meningitis, bacteraemia and pneumonia. It can cause significant illness and death, particularly in young children and the elderly, yet is largely preventable through vaccination.

The investigation was led by Royal Melbourne Hospital's Dr Katherine Gibney, an epidemiologist at the Doherty Institute, through her role at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), who studied population-based data from Victoria, Australia.

“We have analysed over 15 years of data, including all hepatitis C and invasive pneumococcal disease cases notified in Victoria, to show adults with hepatitis C are at much higher risk of developing severe pneumococcal disease,” said Dr Gibney.

“This is particularly pertinent for people in their late 40's, where roughly one quarter of those with severe pneumococcal disease also had hepatitis C.”

Although Australian guidelines recommend pneumococcal vaccine for people with chronic liver disease, adults under 70 with liver disease caused by hepatitis C infection are not eligible for free pneumococcal vaccine.

“There are two important messages for health providers and patients from these data. First, adults with hepatitis C should be vaccinated to protect against pneumococcal vaccine. Second, adults who are hospitalised with pneumococcal disease should be tested for hepatitis C.”

“Treatment is now widely available for Australians with hepatitis C, which is extremely effective and well tolerated.” she said.