The CDC says that a large, late-stage study of a new vaccine to guard against hepatitis E--a common and dangerous water-borne virus often found in the unsanitary waters of developing countries--demonstrated its effectiveness and safety. Researchers tested the vaccine in close to 100,000 healthy volunteers in China's Jiangsu Province. The vaccine was given in three doses, the second being a month after the first and the third six months after the first. They reported that all of the patients who had received the three-dose vaccine schedule were free of the virus 30 days after their shots. However, 15 people in the placebo arm were infected within a year after the third dose.
"In view of the slow rate of improvement of sanitary conditions in many areas of Asia and Africa, this vaccine might be our best new stopgap in the effort to control the scourge of HEV in many parts of the world," the CDC's Scott Holmberg explains. Xiamen Innovax Biotech makes the vaccine.
Ning-Shao Xia of Xiamen University in China led the study of the vaccine. Hepatitis E afflicts about a third of the world's population and kills about 26,000 people every year. But while the virus has an overall mortality rate of about 1 percent to 3 percent, it's particularly virulent among pregnant women, killing between 5 and 25 percent of that group.