The first International Meeting was organized in 2008. It was entirely focused on the biology and clinical implications of the so-called “occult” phase of chronic hepatitis B virus infection (Occult Hepatitis B Virus Infection: Biology and Clinical Impact – Taormina, March 7th-8th, 2008). The workshop was endorsed by the EASL and enjoyed extraordinary success.
Many international experts (virologists, immunologists, transfusionists, epidemiologists, hepatologists, etc.) were involved and produced a document published in the Journal of Hepatology that has hundreds of citations and it is still considered the benchmark in the field (Statements from the Taormina expert meeting on occult hepatitis B virus infection - Journal of Hepatology, 2008: 49; 652–657).
In the last years, the knowledge on occult HBV infection (also known with the abbreviation “OBI”, as established at the Taormina meeting) has greatly increased. Some important virological and immunonological aspects have been clarified. The molecular basis of OBI has been identified as the long-lasting persistence of HBV cccDNA in the form of a transcriptionally suppressed minichromosome.
In addition, there is growing evidence supporting its clinical impact in different clinical scenarios. In fact, apart from the well-established risks of acute and often fatal reactivation in the course of immune-suppressive therapy and of HBV transmission in cases of liver transplantation and blood transfusion, OBI might be a factor that negatively influences the outcome of the disease if other causes of liver damage (HCV infection, ASH, NASH, hemochromatosis, etc.), co-exist.
The Meeting will be a unique occasion to discuss both the different aspects of this important and particular phase of the HBV infection and new strategies for a complete - or at least functional - HBV cure.
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Division of Clinical and Molecular Hepatology
University Hospital of Messina - Italy