Researchers analyzed 27 clinical trials in which chronic hepatitis B patients using Chinese herbal medicine alone, or with interferon alfa, were compared with a control group of patients that were taking only interferon alfa. The protein interferon alfa is a standard treatment for hepatitis B infection. Some of its side effects include strong flu-like symptoms, fatigue and depression.
The meta-analysis, to be published Oct. 1 in the American Journal of Public Health, found that the most encouraging results came from patients who used a combination of Chinese herbal treatments and interferon alfa.
"The results are encouraging enough that, if I had chronic hepatitis B and had previously failed interferon alfa treatment, I would talk to my doctor about combining interferon alfa with Chinese herbal medicine," said Michael McCulloch, a doctoral student in epidemiology at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and lead author of the study.
According to the World Health Organization, 2 billion people worldwide are infected with hepatitis B, 350 million of whom have the chronic form of the disease. About three-fourths of those with chronic hepatitis B live in Asia.
"There is a wealth of data about hepatitis B from researchers in Asia because the disease is endemic in that part of the world, but accessing that information has been - and still is - difficult because few of those studies are published in English-language journals," said McCulloch, who is also a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
McCulloch, who earned his bachelor's degree in Chinese studies at UC Berkeley, searched through six databases of medical literature, including
Contact: Sarah Yang
University of California - Berkeley