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photo of Mehlika Toy

Stanford scientist is working to halt spread of hepatitis B

Decision scientist Mehlika Toy is working with the WHO to help eliminate the public health burden of hepatitis B by the year 2030.

Stanford decision scientist Mehlika Toy, PhD, is working with the World Health Organization to help reach the goal of significantly reducing the number of infections and deaths from hepatitis B by the year 2030.

Her mission is to develop a mathematical model that will calculate country-specific interventions for hepatitis B, a virus that's often asymptomatic and spreads via blood and bodily fluids, as a recent Stanford Medicine news story explains.

Although an effective vaccine and treatment for the disease exist, an estimated 800,000 deaths per year worldwide are attributed to undiagnosed or untreated hepatitis B. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 1.3 million people have chronic hepatitis B, yet two-thirds don't know it.  

That's where Toy's expertise comes in. She's spent the past 12 years researching the best ways to control infectious diseases, specifically, chronic hepatitis B.

As a graduate student, Toy examined the public health impact of antiviral therapy for hepatitis B, a project that resulted in public health policy changes in the Netherlands and in Turkey. Later, as a fellow at Harvard, she researched cost-effective interventions for chronic hepatitis B infection, a study that provided Chinese policymakers with the evidence they needed to enact health policy changes and to procure low-cost drugs for a national viral hepatitis treatment program.

Toy's extensive knowledge of chronic hepatitis B paired with her ability to identify and unite key collaborators is a huge asset, her colleague David Hutton, PhD, associate professor at the University of Michigan, explains.

"Mehlika has a great rapport with others in the field, which helps with her success," Hutton said. "This kind of work is something you cannot do alone."

Photo by Steve Fisch

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