An experimental vaccine for hepatitis E has proved nearly 96 percent protective in a test among soldiers in Nepal. The results set the stage for a final trial that could lead to commercialization of the vaccine, the first to be developed against this virus.
Other hepatitis vaccines don't work against hepatitis E, and there's no effective treatment for the disease that it causes. By some estimates, one-third of the world's population, mainly in Africa and Asia, has been infected at some time. A hepatitis E infection causes fatal liver failure in 1 to 3 percent of patients showing symptoms. Other signs of the disease are abdominal pain, nausea, fatigue, and yellowed skin.
The loss of wages from weeks or months of missed work creates a "huge burden" on families in poor countries where this hepatitis is endemic, says Bruce L. Innis, an infectious-disease physician at GlaxoSmithKline in King of Prussia, Pa.