Around 226,000 Australians are living with chronic hepatitis B (CHB), and approximately 170,000 Australians are living with chronic hepatitis C (CHC). Infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) can lead to cirrhosis, liver damage or liver cancer.

In the Northern Territory (NT) between 3 and 11 per cent of Aboriginal people live with CHB and approximately 1.9 per cent live with CHC. Hepatitis B has a vaccine and hepatitis C has a cure, which means the virtual elimination of viral hepatitis is possible.

Our research focus:
  • To measure the disease burden caused by HBV infection in the NT
  • To use novel approaches to make testing for HBV and liver cancer easier
  • To understand the impact of a novel HBV genotype on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Northern Australia to improve vaccination and disease management strategies
  • To use a partnership approach to sustainably eliminate hepatitis B from the Aboriginal population in the NT
  • Using nurse-led, peer-based models of care to diagnose and treat hepatitis C in the community
Our research impact:
  • Discovered a new genotype of HBV – HBV/C4. This genotype is unique to Aboriginal Australians in the NT and its surface protein is different from other HBVs. As a result, we will conduct studies to determine whether the vaccine given to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants is as effective as first thought.
  • Found high rates of liver cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which are mainly due to HBV infection. It is possible that the HBV/C4 genotype is more aggressive than other strains.
  • In partnership with remote communities, we have developed a culturally appropriate HBV educational resource and translated this into 11 Aboriginal languages, covering the first language of at least 70% of the Aboriginal NT population 
  • Identified the hepatitis B sero-status of over 90% of Aboriginal clients in Top End and Central Australia Health Services.
  • In partnership with the Aboriginal health workforce, developed a hepatitis B management education course, along with a transferable model for the development of culturally safe training.