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Could a popular HIV drug benefit hepatitis B patients?

ST. LOUIS -- Saint Louis University School of Medicine researchers are studying the effectiveness of a drug for patients with chronic hepatitis B that is currently used to treat HIV.

Hepatitis B patients currently take an antiviral called Hepsera, says Adrian Di Bisceglie, M.D., chief of hepatology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. The drug under investigation in the study, called Tenofovir, is similar to Hepsera in that it is a "nucleotide analog" that helps stop the virus from propagating. Researchers will study Tenofovir's efficacy compared to Hepsera's in up to 300 patients worldwide.

"We have high hopes that Tenofovir will be more potent than the current drug regimen for hepatitis B patients," Di Bisceglie says.

Hepatitis B is a disease passed down from mother to infant during pregnancy and has reached epidemic levels in China, Vietnam and sub-Saharan Africa.

"It is a terrible disease because it kills people in their prime of their lives in their 30s, 40s and 50s," Di Bisceglie says. "What makes it even more devastating is that there are mild non-specific symptoms or sometimes no symptoms at all."

Most American women who undergo prenatal screening are also screened for hepatitis B, Di Bisceglie says, and because there is a safe, effective vaccine, hepatitis B is a "controllable" disease.

"But we hope this new antiviral can help improve the lives of patients with hepatitis B," he says.


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Contact: Rachel Otto
ottorl@slu.edu
314-977-8018
Saint Louis University
3-May-2006


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