Researchers from two Hong Kong universities report that that new medication telbivudine suppresses hepatitis B virus (HBV) better than traditional treatments.
University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) scientists held a joint press conference last week saying that telbivudine works better than commonly prescribed medicine lamivudine and adefovir in restraining HBV.
The results of the studies done by HKU and CUHK were published in a British medical journal New England Journal of Medicine and an American medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine respectively in December, 2007.
The studies included comparisons of the effectiveness between telbivudine and lamivudine, and that between telbivudine and adefovir. More than 1,000 hepatitis B patients joined the studies.
According to the results, after a year of medical treatment, 60 percent of patients who were under telbivudine treatment achieved non-detectable HBV level in blood serum; while only about 40 percent of those who had medication with lamivudine or adefovir achieved the same level.
The results also show that, the new medicine at a price in between the two traditional ones, was well tolerated and had only very few side effects.
China has the world's largest population of hepatitis B patients, with nearly half a million people dieing of the liver disease every year.
Worse, carriers have to face a lot of problems. Officials have repeatedly called for public awareness campaign in China as many of the country's 120 million hepatitis carriers complained they faced social and work place discrimination.
"Many people believe they can be easily infected by carriers," said Yu Faming, an official responsible for employment and training with the Labour ministry.
"In fact, common daily contact with hepatitis carriers like having dinner or talking is safe, but a lot of people just don't know that," said Yu, adding it usually requires an exchange of bodily fluids with a carrier to become infected.