By Joan M. Block, RN, BSN
Executive Director and Co-Founder, Hepatitis B Foundation
Tuesday, July 28, is World Hepatitis Day, which commemorates the birthday of Dr. Baruch S. Blumberg, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for identifying the hepatitis B virus and developing a vaccine to prevent it. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the hepatitis B virus – a discovery that has literally saved hundreds of millions of lives. Continue reading "Celebrate World Hepatitis Day By Making Hepatitis B History"→
This summer, students living with hepatitis B face a task that can be as stressful as SATs, entrance exams or writing college essays – completing their colleges’ health forms.
Some colleges and graduate schools require no medical information while others expect you to document in detail your allergies, immunizations, medical history and even undergo TB testing.
The good news is colleges want to make sure all students are vaccinated against hepatitis B, the bad news is the requirement can force students to disclose their hepatitis B infection. Here are some important things parents and students should know when filling out college health forms.
No school can deny you admission or treat you differently because you have hepatitis B. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disabilities, and that includes hepatitis B.
Hepatitis C is now declared curable. Hepatitis B is still not, despite having been discovered nearly 50 years ago. An interview with Dr. Timothy Block of the Hepatitis B Foundation and the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute. The future does look bright…
He points out that commercial and federal investment in hepatitis C have been far greater than in hepatitis B. And that has clearly paid off in terms of finding a hepatitis C cure. “You get what you pay for,” he observes.
Physiologically, hepatitis B also presents unique challenges not found with hepatitis C — most notably cccDNA (or covalently closed circular DNA), the “mini- chromosome” produced by the hepatitis B virus. The cccDNA persists in the nucleus of the liver cell, where it can hide amidst the host’s own chromosomes, apparently out of reach of the cell’s own defense systems.
Acting like “an indestructible template,” cccDNA continues to produce virus particles throughout the life of the infected liver cell, even in people being treated with antiviral agents.
Hepatitis C, on the other hand, doesn’t enter the cell’s nucleus, so it’s possible to cure a person by stopping this virus from replicating long enough for the liver cells to regenerate.
But remember that people who have been “cured” of hepatitis C can still get re-infected,” Block cautions. The hepatitis C drugs apparently do not trigger an immune response that protects against re-infection.
In contrast, some people can be cured of hepatitis B, either naturally or through drug therapy. These individuals do seem to have long-term protective immunity. “And that’s what we are aiming for,” he declares.
Why We Need a Cure for Hepatitis B
It can be argued that the approved antiviral agents are very successful in keeping the virus under control. So do we really need a cure? Definitely yes, Block replies emphatically.
Current antiviral drugs are effective, but need to be taken lifelong and are recommended for use in only about half of the infected population. And even after 10 years of use, the antivirals reduce HBV-related diseases by only about 50 to 60 percent. The drugs can also lead to the development of resistant hepatitis B strains (drug resistance).
For those who benefit from treatment, the antiviral drugs have been transformational and prove that medical intervention can be effective. However, there are millions who do not benefit and are still left vulnerable.
Clearly, new approaches to a “functional cure” are needed, which Block defines as “returning the risk of death due to hepatitis B to the level of someone who has a resolved infection.” And the person should not need to take any drugs to stay at this low-risk level.
Targeted Strategy for a Cure
The HBF/Blumberg Institute scientists, with their research partners from Drexel University College of Medicine, both located in the HBF’s Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center, are developing two types of therapies: direct-acting antivirals and innate host defense activators. The first type inhibits virus-host interactions and viral gene products; the second recruits the host’s immune system to attack and eliminate cccDNA and infected liver cells.
For each of these approaches, the researchers have identified key steps to target in the hepatitis B infection cycle, from virus entry into the liver cell, to cccDNA replication, to formation of virus particles.
For many of these steps, “Our scientists have developed assays that can be used to screen for new drugs. We are a recognized leader in designing and developing these assays and, for a time, had the only cccDNA- dependent cell lines,” notes Block. Almost 100 different cell lines for assays have been developed that can be used to screen for drugs that activate the innate host defense pathways.
The strategic goal is to discover new drugs that complement existing therapies, but also enable the immune system to provide long-lasting antiviral protection, even when the person is no longer on drug therapy.
Several compounds in development already show some effectiveness in animal models. “We have a capsid inhibitor, a pregenomic RNA capsid inhibitor (JT Guo), an HBsAg inhibitor (A Cuconati), a cccDNA repressor (H Guo, A Cuconati, JT Guo), and an activator of innate host defense pathways (J Chang and JT Guo),” Block reports.
He is particularly excited about their stimulator of interferon genes (STING) agonist, which was very effective in mouse models. The research group is now working on a human STING agonist, although an appropriate assay for this compound still needs to be developed.
What the Future Holds
“The Hepatitis B Foundation and its Blumberg Institute have contributed
to some of the most important work in studying the phases of the virus lifecycle that has led to the currently available drugs. Our researchers continue to be at the forefront in developing a promising pipeline for hepatitis B drug discovery,” says Block.
“I am absolutely confident that a cure is possible” he asserts. “After all, enough people with hepatitis B resolve their infections, either medically or spontaneously — even some people with chronic infections. So we know it’s possible.”
Friday, April 27th at 6:30 pm the Hepatitis B Foundation is hosting it’s signature fund raising event of the year at the PineCrest Country Club in Landsdale, Pennsylvania. It will be a wonderful evening filled with fine dining, dancing, and a silent and live auction. On that evening HBF is proud to honor Dr. Howard Koh, the Assistant Secretary for the United Sates Health and Human Services (HHS), with the inaugural Baruch S. Blumberg Prize for his leadership in creating the first HHS Action Plan for Viral Hepatitis.
We know not everyone can make it to Landsdale on the evening of April 27th, but we do hope you will show your support and purchase a raffle ticket to benefit the Hepatitis B Foundation and possibly WIN a 7 day, 5-star cruise for 2! The good news is that you do not need to be present to win. Check out the details about the cruise….
When you step aboard one of the five-star ships of Holland America Line, you will experience a voyage unlike any other. You can choose any cruise for two (same stateroom) up to seven days in length (based on minimum ocean view stateroom) to Alaska, the Caribbean, Mexico or Canada/New England.
Your journey will include extraordinary dining, spacious staterooms, elegant surroundings and days filled with new discoveries and gracious pampering by an award-wining crew. You can choose to partake in as many – or as few – activities as you wish, from the renowned Greenhouse Spa and Salon, to cooking demonstrations and wine tasting in the Culinary Arts Center, and much more. Or simply relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery from the beautiful wrap-around teak deck.
The certificate has no expiration date. The certificate may be applied to other cabin categories or cruise trades at an additional cost. This cruise! certificate is valued up to $3,300!
Are you thinking of selling or trading in a vehicle? Donate it to the Hepatitis B Foundation instead. Turn your car, running or not, into a tax-deductible contribution and help find a cure and improve the quality of life for those affected by hepatitis B worldwide.
The Hepatitis B Foundation works with a full-service partner that will make all the arrangements to conveniently and quickly pick-up your vehicle donation at no cost to you. They handle the pick-up, the title transfer requirements, and sale of the vehicle.
If you complete your vehicle donation before October 31, you may receive a $25 gas gift card by filling out an online survey on the Donation Line website, or call 877-227-7487, extension 2815. Need more information? View our most frequently asked questions below or contact Fern Sanford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-489-4916.
What can I donate?
We accept most cars, vans, trucks, trailers, motorcycles, boats, jet skis, snowmobiles, RVs and even airplanes!
Is my donation tax deductible? The Hepatitis B Foundation is recognized by the IRS as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization and your donation is tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. To benefit from this tax-deduction, you must itemize your taxes.
What do I need to provide? Besides the car, we would like the title to the vehicle. If you do not have it, call us anyway. It is possible that other arrangements may be made.
My car hasn’t run in years. Can I still donate it? Yes, most vehicles are accepted, running or not (exceptions include older vehicles whose value would not offset the cost of towing).
Can you pick up vehicles in all 50 states? It is possible to pick up most vehicles in the continental U.S. and Hawaii.
How will the car be picked up? Arrangements will be made to have your vehicle towed away at a scheduled time.
How long will it take to pick up my car? Someone will contact you to schedule an appointment within three or four business days at the most.
To donate your car, click here, and follow the instructions.
Have you recently been told you have hepatitis B? Dealing with the illness and waiting out the next six months to determine if your case will resolve itself or become chronic can be nerve-wracking.
Fortunately, 90 percent of adults who are infected will clear or resolve an acute hepatitis B infection. Acute patients do not typically require hospitalization, or even medication, during this time. If you are symptomatic, (some symptoms include jaundice, dark urine, abdominal pain, fever, general malaise) you may be anxiously conferring with your doctor, but if you are asymptomatic, you might not feel compelled to take the diagnosis seriously. The response to both is to maintain a balance. Do not ignore a hepatitis B diagnosis, but don’t let it consume you.
Your doctor will be monitoring your blood work over the next few months to ensure you clear the virus. Your job is to start loving your liver …today. STOP drinking alcoholic beverages. Refrain from smoking. Your liver is a non-complaining organ, but you cannot live without it. Make everything in your diet liver-friendly and healthy.
Avoid processed foods, fatty foods and junk. Get advice before taking prescription medications, herbal remedies, or over-the-counter drugs – especially pain relievers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen and paracetamol. They can be dangerous to a liver that is battling hepatitis B. Get plenty of rest, and exercise gently, if you are able.
Don’t forget that you are infectious during this time, and that loved ones, sexual partners and household contacts should be vaccinated for hepatitis B. Be sure you and all contacts follow standard precautions. If anyone fears exposure, encourage screening to ensure they did not contract hepatitis B as a result of your infection. The hepatitis B vaccine is not effective if you are already infected with the virus.
On the flip-side… Do not let this new hepatitis B diagnosis consume you. As the weeks and months pass, you might find that your illness is not resolving, and you might worry that you are one of the unfortunate 10 percent whose infection becomes chronic. The associated stress and anxiety can be challenging, even overwhelming. It can contribute to physical symptoms you may be experiencing. Join an on-line support group, find a confidant or professional with whom you can share your fears.
When your lab results are back, and you’re told you have cleared your hepatitis B infection, be sure to get copies of your lab reports to ensure there are no mistakes. If something looks wrong, or if you’re confused, speak up and ask your doctor. It is imperative that you know if your acute case has progressed to a chronic infection.
No one wants chronic hepatitis B, but it is manageable with monitoring and there are effective treatments. If you are confused about your diagnosis or test results, feel free to contact the Hepatitis B Foundation at email@example.com.
There are lessons to be learned from this experience. If you have resolved your acute hepatitis B infection, then you do not need to be vaccinated. However, please be sure that you help us eradicate this virus by spreading the word and ensuring everyone you know has been screened and vaccinated for Hepatitis B. And don’t forget to keep Love N’ Your Liver…
Please join us for an evening of fine dining and entertainment!
Date: Friday May 13th, 2011 Time: Cocktails 7:00 pm Dinner: 8:00 pm Place: PineCrest Country Club in Landsdale, PA Dress: Business or Cocktail Attire Tickets: $175 per person or $300 per couple
This is the Hepatitis B Foundation’s signature fund raising event, so we hope you will join us in an elegant evening of celebration, fine dining, and dancing to the sounds of Courtney Colletti Music!
Both a silent and live auction will add to the festivities.
If you are unable to attend the evening, but would like an opportunity to participate in a raffle to benefit the Hepatitis B Foundation, and WIN a six days/nights vacation to exotic Costa Rica, you may purchase a ticket. The winning ticket will be drawn May 13th, but the winner need NOT be present to claim the prize! Click here for more information!
For additional details and tickets, please call Ms. Peggy Farley at
215-589-6328 or email Peggy.Farley@hepb.org