The Hannover Medical School (MHH) enters into a clinic partnership with Uzbekistan and supports with a training program for sonography diagnostics of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
The aim of a new partnership between Hannover Medical School (MHH) and Uzbekistan's leading clinic for infectious diseases is to jointly research viral hepatitis and improve healthcare in the partner country. The Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, Infectiology and Endocrinology cooperates with the Medical Department of the Institute of Virology and the Scientific Research Institute of Virology (SRIoV) in Tashkent.
Looking forward to the hospital cooperation with Uzbekistan: Professor Dr. Heiner Wedemeyer (left), Dr. Lisa Sandmann and Professor Dr. Michael Gebel.
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The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is supporting the project PLUTHO (Prevention of virus-induced Liver Cancer in Uzbekistan: The Tashkent-Hannover-Liver-Network) for two years with EUR 300,000. One focus is the establishment of a structured ultrasound training program for the early detection of liver cancer for Uzbek physicians by the MHH-Klinik. In addition, both partners aim to improve the diagnosis of infections with hepatitis viruses and to find new biomarkers for the individual risk of liver cancer.
“Chronic viral infections of the liver are a major health problem in Uzbekistan,” says Professor Dr. Michael Gebel. The senior physician for ultrasound at the MHH-Klinik has been maintaining contacts with colleagues in the Central Asian Republic for years and has initiated the clinic partnership. “While infections with hepatitis viruses are rather rare in Germany, about one in ten is affected by chronic viral hepatitis,” explains the gastroenterologist. Infections with the hepatitis B virus and co-infections with the hepatitis D virus are among the most common liver infections. And they significantly increase the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Liver cirrhosis or liver cancer are therefore among the most common causes of death.
That should change now. The solution is called ultrasound. “HCCs can be treated very well if we detect them early enough by means of sonography,” says assistant physician Dr. Lisa Sandmann, one of the project’s lead scientists. However, this requires not only modern equipment, but also qualified personnel. The MHH will therefore send ultrasound experts to Tashkent for four continuing education courses to train colleagues there. In addition, doctors are invited to the MHH for training in ultrasound diagnostics. “We want to train multipliers in our clinic, who then pass on their knowledge at home, creating a culture of further education and training,” explains Dr. Sandmann.
The joint research activities focus on the development of test methods for determining the viral load in hepatitis D infections and the identification of biomarkers for the early detection of HCC. “The SRIoV is a renowned research institution in the field of viral hepatitis and the implementation of clinical trials,” emphasises Professor Gebel. MHH is a world leader in the field of chronic liver diseases. Nevertheless, the university, with its focus on infection research, benefits from the samples of the Uzbek patient cohort. “We believe that the new cooperation will also provide excellent support to existing projects at our location,” says clinic director Professor Dr. Heiner Wedemeyer.
Liver expert Wedemeyer sees no problems regarding the political situation in the Central Asian country, which is formally a presidential republic. “Although the country is not a democracy comparable to EU countries, GIZ, with its clear guidelines regarding the political acceptability of its funding lines, has clearly supported this collaboration,” emphasises the gastroenterologist. “Furthermore, for medical and ethical reasons alone, we consider it necessary to maintain contact with Uzbekistan and to help the people there.”