Hepatology is a rapidly evolving medical field that will continue to grow and maintain our excitement over the next few decades. Viral hepatitis is not unlike HIV was 10 or 15 years ago when the retrovirus began to be better understood and treatable. Today, hepatitis B viral replication can be suppressed by potent antiviral drugs, although there are risks regarding the emergence of resistance. Strategies to enhance the eradication rates of HBV infection still need to be developed. On the other hand, hepatitis C virus infection can be eradicated by treatment with pegylated interferon plus ribavirin. However, particularly in those infected by HCV genotype 1, the sustained virologic response rates are still suboptimal. Many new antiviral drugs, especially protease and polymerase inhibitors, are currently in preclinical and clinical development, and the first data from larger clinical trials provide some optimism that the cure rates for patients with chronic hepatitis C will be enhanced with these new agents.
In other areas of hepatology, e.g., hereditary and metabolic liver diseases, our knowledge is rapidly increasing and new therapeutic options are on the horizon. Are books in rapidly evolving areas such as hepatology the right medium to gather and summarise the current knowledge? Are these books not likely to be outdated the very day they are published? This is indeed a challenge that can be convincingly overcome only by rapid internet-based publishing with regular updates. Another unmatched advantage of a web-based book is the free and unrestricted access everywhere. Viral hepatitis and other liver diseases are a global burden and timely information is important for physicians, scientists, patients and health care officials all around the world.