The ∼90% probability of curing individual patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV)using direct-acting antivirals represents one of the most dramatic medical success stories of the modern era, and the journey from viral discovery to treatment occurred over just ∼25 years. The realities of the global burden of disease (2-3% of the world's population is infected), limited access to care and cost of treatment mean that HCV will continue to be a major problem for the next 25 years. But what if HCV (and hepatitis B) could be eradicated? Since liver transplantation and HCV management have been the mainstays of academic hepatology practice, where do we go from here? Unfortunately, we are in an era where the incidence and prevalence of liver diseases around the globe is increasing, and death from complications of cirrhosis is now among the top 10 causes in most countries; so hepatologists are expected to play a major role in the future. Despite remarkable progress, success at the population level is limited by the resource-intensive nature of caring for patients with end-stage disease. Accordingly, the major advances in the next decade are likely to focus on (i) the earlier identification of individuals and populations at higher risk for liver diseases, and (ii) initiation in high-risk populations of specific strategies for early detection and treatment of fibrosis, cancer and cirrhosis. The answers will lie in large part in the further exploration of the human genome in carefully phenotyped patients. Risk variants in the PNPLA3 gene represent the best example to date. The risk variants are common and are enriched in certain populations around the globe; and individuals that possess risk variants are more likely to have liver injury from fatty liver disease (even as children), alcohol and viral hepatitis. Further, those with liver injury are more likely to progress to cirrhosis and hepatoma. Similarly, in those with established liver disease, use of biomarkers and other strategies for early detection of fibrosis and hepatoma will pay dividends as the next generation of treatments focusing on (i) anti-fibrotic strategies and (ii) liver regeneration move to the forefront. There remains an important need to invest in hepatology as a growth industry even after the (unlikely) eradication of HCV.
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