A new study conducted by a research group in China assessed a vaccine for Hepatitis E. The vaccine caused the production of antibodies and protected vaccine recipients from hepatitis E for up to 4.5 years.
The hepatitis E virus is primarily contracted when people drink contaminated water. Transmission can also occur through food, ingestion of products from infected animals, transfusion of infected blood, as well as transmission from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
The infection typically goes away within 4–6 weeks, although sometimes acute liver failure develops due to hepatitis E infection. This can lead to death.
There are about 20 million incidents of hepatitis E infections worldwide every year.
A recent Phase III study of hepatitis E vaccine was conducted by Jun Zhang and colleagues at the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Vaccinology and Molecular Diagnostics, School of Public Health at Xiamen University in China. The researchers gave healthy adults 16 to 65 years of age three doses of either a hepatitis E vaccine (vaccine group; 56,302 participants) or a hepatitis B vaccine (control group; 56,302 participants). Vaccination occurred at 0, 1, and 6 months. The researchers studied the participants for 4.5 years, taking measurements of vaccine safety, induction of antibodies, and protection from hepatitis E infection.
The scientists observed 60 cases of hepatitis E, with 7 cases in the vaccine group and 53 cases in the control group. This meant that the vaccine was 86.8% effective. A total of 87% of people who received three doses of the hepatitis E vaccine produced antibodies against hepatitis E for at least 4.5 years. Only 9% of people in the control group produced hepatitis E antibodies. Both of the two groups receiving vaccines (either for hepatitis E or B) experienced similar side effects.
In their published report, the researchers concluded that “immunization with this hepatitis E vaccine induced antibodies against [hepatitis E] and provided protection against hepatitis E for up to 4.5 years.”
The vaccine could provide much needed protection against hepatitis E viral infection. This may be particularly important for people in specific parts of the world. According to the World Health Organization “The highest seroprevalence rates (number of persons in a population who test positive for the disease) are observed in regions where low standards of sanitation increase the risk for transmission of the virus. Over 60% of all hepatitis E infections and 65% of all hepatitis E deaths occur in East and South Asia.”
The study was funded by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology and others; and may be accessed using ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01014845.