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Herpes infections, related complications cost billions in health care expenditures, productivity losses globally – study

Genital herpes infections and their related complications lead to billions of dollars in health care expenditures and productivity losses.

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Genital herpes infections and their related complications lead to billions of dollars in health care expenditures and productivity losses globally.

The study — “Estimated global and regional economic burden of genital herpes simplex virus infection among 15–49 year-olds in 2016” by Nathorn Chaiyakunapruk, Shaun Wen Huey Lee, Puttarin Kulchaitanaroaj, et al — appeared in the BMC Global and Public Health.

The researchers noted that while, globally, herpes simplex virus (HSV)-2 and -1 infections contribute to a large disease burden, their full economic consequences remain unclear. So they wanted to estimate the global economic impact of genital HSV-2 and HSV-1 infection and its consequences for people with genital ulcer disease, neonatal herpes, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection attributable to HSV-2.

The economic burden was calculated at the country level and presented by World Health Organization (WHO) regions and World-Bank income levels. The disease burden was obtained from previously published global disease burden studies in 2016 and disaggregated for 194 countries. Estimates of healthcare resource utilization were sourced from a literature review, and online interviews were conducted with 20 experts from all six WHO regions. Relevant costs were obtained from the literature and estimated in 2016 international dollars (I$).

The study found:

  • Both genital HSV-2 (I$31·2 billion) and HSV-1 (I$4·0 billion) infections and their consequences were estimated to cost I$35·3 billion globally in 2016.
  • The major economic burden was from the Americas and Western Pacific regions combined, accounting for almost two-thirds of the global burden (I$20·8 billion).
  • High- and upper-middle-income countries bore a large proportion of the economic burden (76·6% or I$27·0 billion).
  • Costs were driven by the large number of HSV-2 recurrences; however, even assuming conservatively that people with symptomatic herpes have on average only one episode a year, global costs were estimated at I$16·5 billion.

“The global costs of genital HSV infection and its consequences are substantial,” stressed the researchers. As such, “HSV prevention interventions have the potential to avert a large economic burden in addition to disease burden; thus, efforts to accelerate HSV vaccine development are crucial.”


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