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Vaccine May Provide Some Protection From Hepatitis E

Immunization offers nearly five years of protection, researchers say

THURSDAY, March 5, 2015 (HealthDay News) — A vaccine for hepatitis E provides protection from the virus for at least 4.5 years, according to new research. The report was published in the March 5 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Ning-Shao Xia, M.D., a professor in the department of biology at Xiamen University in China, and colleagues randomly assigned 56,302 healthy adults, aged 16 to 65, to get three shots of the hepatitis E vaccine. At the same time, 56,302 additional adults were injected with the hepatitis B vaccine (control group).

During the 4.5 years of follow-up, 60 people developed hepatitis E. Seven were among those who received the hepatitis E vaccine, and 53 cases developed in those given the hepatitis B vaccine, the researchers found. Eight-seven percent of those who received three doses of the hepatitis E vaccine maintained antibodies against the virus for at least 4.5 years, the study authors said.

Hepatitis E is spread in areas where sanitation is poor. “Many people get sick from this virus, but only 1 to 3 percent die from it, except [among] pregnant women,” John Ward, M.D., the director of the division of viral hepatitis at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and coauthor of an accompanying journal editorial, told HealthDay. “Pregnant women have about a one in five chance of dying. There is no treatment for hepatitis E.”

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