Is Beethoven a Hep Hero?

April 13, 2023

When an autopsy was carried out after Ludwig van Beethoven’s death in 1827, his liver was found to be “beset with nodules the size of a bean”. Now researchers say the cause may not have been alcohol consumption alone, with a genetic analysis revealing the composer had hepatitis B and was at high risk for liver disease – the condition that is generally thought to have killed him.

Luckily there is a vaccine available to prevent hepatitis B. But, much like Beethoven, it is important we get tested for hepatitis B to avoid further liver damage and cirrhosis, especially if you are at a higher risk.

Many people with hepatitis B have no signs of illness and do not realise they have the virus in their body. You should get a test if you think you have been in a situation where you could have been exposed, or if you:

  • Have migrated to Australia from a country/region where hepatitis B is very common (particularly migrants from endemic areas, such as Africa, the Asia and Pacific regions and the Middle East).
  • Are an Aboriginal or a Torres Strait Islander person, as hepatitis B is more common in your communities.
    Inject drugs/anabolic steroids and share injecting equipment.
  • Are a man who has sex with men.

You can ask your doctor about having a blood test for hepatitis B. You can also visit a community health centre or a sexual health clinic for further information.

More about Beethoven and Liver Disease
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