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Hepatitis A Vaccine Best Bet to Treat Virus
Date:10/18/2007

CDC now recommends it instead of traditional immune globulin injection

THURSDAY, Oct. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Treating the liver disease hepatitis A with the hepatitis A vaccine is as effective as treating it with the more traditional injection of immune globulin, a new study found.

Based on these results, the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices now recommends the vaccine as the preferred treatment for the hepatitis A virus, according to a report in the CDC's Oct. 19 issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"The primary finding of the study is that hepatitis A vaccine appears to work equally as well as immune globulin after exposure to the virus," said lead researcher John C. Victor, with the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, in Seattle.

For the vaccine to be effective as a treatment, just like immune globulin, it must be given within two weeks of exposure to hepatitis A. "Any longer than that is too late," Victor said.

The vaccine appears to work, because hepatitis A has a 28-day incubation period, so the vaccine has time to build immunity before the virus takes hold, Victor said.

In the study, Victor's team randomly assigned 1,090 people from Almaty, Kazakhstan, who had been exposed to hepatitis A to either a dose of the hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin. All the study participants were between 2 and 40 years old, according to a report on the study in an Oct. 18 early release from the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers found that of all the people in the trial, 25 who received the vaccine and 17 who received immune globulin later showed symptoms of hepatitis A. Victor's group concluded that treatment with the vaccine is as effective as immune globulin.

The advantage of the vaccine is that it's readily available and has fewer side effects than immune globulin,
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