According to the recent WHO Global Hepatitis report, 2017 around 325 million people worldwide are living with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) OR hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. As per recent data, in India, around 40 million people are chronically infected with HBV and 6 to 12 million are suffering from HCV.
Because of lack of access to life-saving testing and treatment million of peoples are facing a risk of chronic liver disease, cancer, and death. HBV is one of the reasons for infertility in males.
Hepatitis B virus' 'S' protein is responsible for lowering the sperm mobility and reduce the fertilization rate by more than half. Studies showed that HBV infected are 1.59 times are more likely to experience infertility than individuals who are not infected.
“Hepatitis does not have any effect on the normal functioning of the ovarian or uterine glands. However, this virus impacts spermatogenesis negatively in males. This causes a reduction in the sperm count, free testosterone levels, motility, viability, and morphology which further impacts overall fertility and ability to produce an offspring in them", said Dr Hrishikesh D Pai, director IVF & Infertility, Fortis La Femme Hospital, Delhi and secretary general of the Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecological Societies of India
The need of the hour is to offer testing for HBsAg and HCV in infertile couples. This would help them get some clarity on the fertility therapy they should choose and reduce any potential risk of transmission to an uninfected partner or baby.
“Transmission risk from mother to baby increases by 80-90 per cent in HBV cases and 11 per cent in HCV positive cases, where there is a high viral load. Some ways to reduce this risk include semen washing, administering the uninfected partner with HBV vaccination, and treatment with Interferon and Ribavirin. Many couples would have doubts, fears, and misconceptions in their mind about this condition,” said Dr Nandita Palshetkar, director, IVF and Infertility, Fortis Bloom IVF Center, La Femme and Fortis Hospital Gurgaon.
On World Hepatitis Day, it is important to encourage couples to come out and talk about these fears and apprehensions through support and peer groups as in the West.
According to WHO, viral hepatitis has been responsible for an estimated 1.4 million deaths. The ‘Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis report (2016-2021)’ stated that out of the 1.4 million deaths, approximately 48 per cent of the patients suffer from hepatitis C virus, 47 per cent from hepatitis B virus, and the remaining from hepatitis A and hepatitis E viruses.
Dr Avinash Phadke, President Technology & Mentor (Clinical Pathology), SRL Diagnostics said, “Hepatitis has largely been ignored as a health and development priority. With time, there has been a huge influx of people into urban areas of India and significant changes in the lifestyle of the urban population. For HEV and HAV infections hygiene and sanitation practices play major roles, while for HBV and HCV, lifestyle and awareness are very important.” Hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver, further leading to serious scarring ( cirrhosis), which can prove fatal in the long run.