Background/aims: End-stage liver disease accounts for one in forty deaths worldwide. Chronic infections with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) are well-recognized risk factors for cirrhosis and liver cancer, but estimates of their contributions to worldwide disease burden have been lacking.
Methods: The prevalence of serologic markers of HBV and HCV infections among patients diagnosed with cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) was obtained from representative samples of published reports. Attributable fractions of cirrhosis and HCC due to these infections were estimated for 11 WHO-based regions.
Results: Globally, 57% of cirrhosis was attributable to either HBV (30%) or HCV (27%) and 78% of HCC was attributable to HBV (53%) or HCV (25%). Regionally, these infections usually accounted for >50% of HCC and cirrhosis. Applied to 2002 worldwide mortality estimates, these fractions represent 929,000 deaths due to chronic HBV and HCV infections, including 446,000 cirrhosis deaths (HBV: n=235,000; HCV: n=211,000) and 483,000 liver cancer deaths (HBV: n=328,000; HCV: n=155,000).
Conclusions: HBV and HCV infections account for the majority of cirrhosis and primary liver cancer throughout most of the world, highlighting the need for programs to prevent new infections and provide medical management and treatment for those already infected.