MU scientist to direct research seeking cure for hepatitis B

A University of Missouri scientist will lead a $3 million program to find a drug that can attack the protective shell of hepatitis B, undermining the virus’ ability to reproduce.

 Stefan Sarafianos, professor of molecular microbiology and immunology in the MU School of Medicine, will collaborate with researchers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and the University of Pittsburgh to study hepatitis B with a National Institutes of Health grant, the university said in a news release.

Hepatitis B infects 240 million people worldwide, causing liver damage and killing about 686,000 people.

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FDA Finalizes Hepatitis B Screening Guidance | Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor

The FDA has finalized its guidance on donor screening by adding nucleic acid tests (NAT) to reduce the risk of hepatitis B virus (HBV), reported Regulatory Affairs Professional Society (RAPS).

It’s estimated that about 1.4 million people live with HBV, and although most adults will clear the virus, between 30% and 90% of children under 5-years-old will develop a chronic infection, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To help curb the risk of HBV transmission from human cells, tissues, and cellular and tissue-based products (HCT/Ps), the FDA recommends that HCT/P establishments add NAT to their testing arsenal, because the new tests offer significant improvements in how early the virus can be detected.

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HEPATITIS B Many people in the US with chronic hepatitis B not being properly monitored | Michael Carter

Many people with chronic hepatitis B virus infection have infrequent medical monitoring, according to US research published in the online edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases. Analysis of the records of over 2000 people with the chronic infection followed for an average of six years showed that a quarter did not have an annual assessment of a key marker of liver function, only a third had yearly measurement of hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA, and that 11% of people with cirrhosis had never had a liver ultrasound. Only 32% were prescribed HBV therapy and 44% of those with cirrhosis were not under treatment.

“We found that CHB [chronic hepatitis B] patients had suboptimal clinical monitoring and, accordingly, insufficient data to determine disease phase and antiviral treatment eligibility,” comment the researchers.

An estimated 850,000 individuals are living with chronic hepatitis B in the United States. The infection has four phases that depend primarily on alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level and HBV DNA levels. It is therefore essential that patients have these markers frequently assessed to guide decisions about treatment and care.

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Long-term lamivudine therapy leads to HBsAg loss in patients with HBV

Long-term lamivudine therapy led to hepatitis B surface antigen loss in patients with chronic hepatitis B, according to recent findings published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics.

Lamivudine was found to have good activity, lowering HBV DNA levels in virtually all patients with subsequent improvements in serum enzyme levels and hepatic histology,” Shilpa Lingala, MD, clinical fellow at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the NIH at the time of study publication. “A major shortcoming, however, was the development of anti-viral resistance after which HBV DNA levels generally rose and the biochemical and histological features worsened.”

Long-term lamivudine therapy is associated with clearance of hepatitis B surface antigen, the researchers wrote. However, it remains unclear how long patients should be treated and what criteria should be used to stop therapy.

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