Egypt Becomes the First Country in the World to Eradicate Hepatitis C Virus
In a remarkable achievement, Egypt has been awarded the first-ever certificate by the World Health Organization (WHO) for successfully eliminating the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). This groundbreaking milestone was achieved within a few months through the use of Egyptian medications, provided free of charge, as part of the nationwide campaign "100 Million Health." The campaign aimed to achieve the 2030 goals well ahead of schedule. The announcement was made during a grand celebration at the base of the Great Pyramid on Monday evening, according to Dr. Manal Hamdi El-Sayed, a professor of pediatric hepatology at Ain Shams University and a member of the National Committee for Hepatitis Viruses.
Groundbreaking Research on Children
Dr. Manal Hamdi El-Sayed further explained that ongoing research is being conducted on Egyptian children aged 3 to 12 years at the Ain Shams University Medical Research Center in collaboration with the WHO. The purpose of this research is to test a new drug for the treatment of Hepatitis C virus specifically designed for young children, ranging from 3 to 12 years old. These tablets, produced by an Egyptian company, are identical to the ones used for adults. This breakthrough will provide us with a new treatment option for children infected with the Hepatitis C virus, with smaller doses and formulations suitable for their age. The study is nearing completion and holds promising results.
Furthermore, these tablets will enable us to have smaller doses available in the future, should there be any new cases. Dr. Manal Hamdi El-Sayed emphasized that the Ministry of Health has established a network to monitor and register new cases of Hepatitis C virus infections. Any reported cases will be promptly addressed to maintain low infection rates in Egypt.
Reducing Hepatitis C Infections in Egypt
Egypt has experienced high rates of Hepatitis C virus infections, not only among adults but also among children. Dr. Manal Hamdi El-Sayed clarified that a study was conducted in collaboration with an international center, where the number of infected individuals worldwide was analyzed. It was concluded that Egypt's infection rates were not the highest, with Pakistan having the highest rates. Additionally, infection rates tend to increase with age.
In the past, there were no dedicated programs for treating children, and the available programs were carried out by certain associations, such as the Liver Patient Care Association. Initially, children were treated with the interferon drug. However, with the introduction of new medications in Egypt in 2016, the treatment for children infected with the Hepatitis C virus shifted to these new drugs, following international approval for their use in individuals under 18 years old. After the launch of the "100 Million Health" campaign, the treatment of children began two months later. The campaign targeted children above 12 years old in December 2018, including all types of schools, whether governmental, Al-Azhar, or technical schools, as well as institutes for individuals under 18 years old. The implementation was carried out in collaboration with various ministries, including the Ministry of Health and the Health Insurance Authority. The National Council for Motherhood and Childhood also played a vital role in obtaining informed consent from parents, ensuring equal access to treatment for all children, without discrimination. The testing was conducted within the school premises, without the child's knowledge, using a rapid Hepatitis C virus test. The process was carried out with utmost confidentiality, without even the teachers or supervisors being aware of the child's infection status.
Once the infection was confirmed through the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, the child received the necessary treatment, and the parents were informed. The program is still ongoing under the supervision and accreditation of the World Health Organization, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the General Health Insurance Authority. This achievement will lead to Egypt being awarded the first-ever certificate by the WHO, certifying Egypt's freedom from the Hepatitis C virus. This groundbreaking accomplishment will be announced on the following Monday, marking an early achievement of the 2030 goals.
Egypt's remarkable success in eradicating the Hepatitis C virus through the "100 Million Health" campaign, utilizing Egyptian medications and conducting groundbreaking research on children, is a testament to the country's dedication to public health. This achievement not only benefits the people of Egypt but also serves as a model for other countries in the global fight against Hepatitis C. Egypt's innovative approach, strategic planning, and collaborative efforts with international organizations like the WHO have resulted in significant progress towards a healthier future for all.