Twitter As a Noninvasive Bio-Marker for Trends in Liver Disease

Hepatol Commun. 2019 Jul 13;3(9):1271-1280. doi: 10.1002/hep4.1394. eCollection 2019 Sep.


With the success of hepatitis C virus (HCV) direct-acting antiviral therapies, there has been a shift in research focus to the other major chronic liver diseases (CLDs). The use of social media, specifically Twitter, has become a popular platform for understanding public health trends and for performing health care research. To evaluate this, we studied the areas of public interest and social media trends of the following three major CLDs: hepatitis B virus (HBV), HCV, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)/nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Twitter activity data from January 1, 2013, through January 1, 2019, for HBV, HCV, and NAFLD/NASH were collected using the social media analytic tool Symplur Signals (Symplur LLC) software. Content and regression analyses were performed to understand and predict Twitter activity for each of the CLDs. Over the study period, there were 810,980 tweets generating 4,452,939,516 impressions. HCV tweet activity peaked in 2015 at 243,261 tweets, followed by a decline of 52.4% from 2015 to 2016 with a subsequent plateau through 2018. Meanwhile, NAFLD/NASH and HBV tweet activity has continued to increase, with projections that these two CLDs will surpass HCV by the second half of 2023 and 2024, respectively. Treatment and Management was the most popular content category for HCV and NAFLD/NASH, while Prevention was the most popular content category for HBV. Conclusion: Twitter is a useful social media tool to gauge public interest in liver disease over time. The information provided by Twitter can be used to identify gaps in public knowledge or highlight areas of interest that may need further research. Future studies on the use of Twitter in liver disease are warranted.