Hep B Blog

Category Archives: Hepatitis B Treatment

What New Treatments Are on the Horizon for Hepatitis B/D Coinfected Patients?

Although there are highly effective treatments available to manage hepatitis B, there are few available treatments for hepatitis D, and none are U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved. Hepatitis D is the most severe form of viral hepatitis, and coinfection can accelerate liver damage and cause cirrhosis or liver cancer in as little as 5 years for some patients. Currently there is no approved drug for acute or chronic hepatitis B/D coinfection, but in trials pegylated interferon alpha has shown to be somewhat effective. By stimulating the body’s immune system, around 25-30% of patients are able to suppress their hepatitis D viral load with weekly injections over 48 weeks. Emerging research is showing higher rates of effectiveness with prolonged interferon treatment beyond one year, but it can be difficult for patients to continue due to the physical and mental toll of interferon on the body. Antiviral medications that are proven effective against hepatitis B are sometimes prescribed along with interferon therapy for patients with a high hepatitis B viral load, but these have no effect on hepatitis D. It is urgent that more treatment options be developed for the millions of hepatitis B/D patients that are eagerly awaiting them.

The good news is that with renewed scientific interest, research and funding, eight new drugs are currently in development that offer hope for more treatment options in the coming years. Two drugs have even been granted special designations by the FDA and one by European Medicines Agency (EMA), paving the way for increased resources and funding for development. Due to recent advancements, the future looks hopeful, and within a few years it is likely there will be more treatment options available. Below is a chart that provides more information on these new drugs and their current clinical trial status.

Pegylated Interferon Lambda

Pegylated-interferon-lambda (PEG-IFN-λ) is a well-characterized, late-stage, first in class, type III interferon that stimulates cell-mediated immune responses that are critical for the development of host protection during viral infections. This drug has now been granted “Orphan Drug Designation” by the FDA, fast-tracking the development process.

Myrcludex B

This drug is an “entry inhibitor” that prevents the virus from entering into hepatocytes (liver cells) and has shown activity against the hepatitis B virus. It may also stop the development of a hepatitis D infection. A recent study showed promise for Myrcludex B when combined with PEG-INF in reducing hepatitis D viral levels. It has been granted PRIME Eligibility by the European Medicines Agency, a status that promotes support in development of drugs that serve an unmet medical need.

Ezetimibe

Currently used to lower cholesterol in the blood, Ezetimibe is being studied for effectiveness against hepatitis D. Ezetimibe possesses pharmacophore features to stop NTCP, the receptor required for hepatitis B and hepatitis D hepatocyte entry.

Lonafarnib

This drug works by targeting the protein assembly process, preventing the production of new virus particles. In a current clinical trial, Lonafarnib combined with Ritonavir has shown promise in reducing hepatitis D viral levels, and the FDA has granted it fast-track status since this class of drugs have been developed for the treatment of cancers and have been shown to be safe.

Rep 2139

This compound is known as a “Nucleic acid-based Amphipathic Polymer” (NAP) which prevents the release of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) from infected liver cells and is being evaluated for hepatitis D virus in combination with pegylated interferon (PEG IFN).

GI-18000

GI-18000 Tarmogen is being studied for its effectiveness in causing a T cell immune response against cells infected with Hepatitis D and thereby improving outcomes. The strategy is to identify molecular targets that distinguish diseased cells from normal cells and activate the immune system to selectively target and eliminate only the diseased cells.

ALN-HDV

This approach is being used for both the hepatitis B and hepatitis D virus to “silence” the viral RNA with compounds that interfere with and cause the destruction of the viral genome (e.g. stop replication of the virus).

As clinical trials progress, sites may open across the world that are enrolling hepatitis D patients. Keep checking here for an up-to-date list of all current clinical trials.

Click here for more information about the phases of the clinical trial process.

For more information about hepatitis B/D coinfection, please visit www.hepdconnect.org or email us at connect@hepdconnect.org.

May 19 is National Hepatitis Testing Day

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month and Saturday, May 19this National Hepatitis Testing Day in the United States. This day is an opportunity to increase awareness and testing for both hepatitis B and C. It is also a reminder for health care providers and the public of the importance of testing for viral hepatitis.

Why is hepatitis B testing necessary? Hepatitis B is largely asymptomatic, which means that symptoms don’t always occur or are not obvious. Some people will not know that they have hepatitis B until it is too late, or they may learn of their infection from a blood donation screening or lab work.  There are groups of people who have a greater risk of hepatitis B compared to others, so it doesn’t hurt to be sure. here are some places around the world that have an extremely high hepatitis B prevalence (where many people are infected). It is important that people who are at high risk for a hepatitis B infection see a doctor to get tested, to find out if they have a hepatitis B infection. People living with chronic hepatitis B should be monitored regularly and appropriately screened for liver cancer. So, if you find you do have hepatitis B, talk to your doctor about what to do next.

Remember, hepatitis B does not discriminate. Don’t wait for symptoms. B sure. B tested. If you do not have hepatitis B, then give yourself lifelong protection with the hepatitis B vaccine. The hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective. Children or adults can get the 3-shot vaccine series, and there isa newly approved two-dose adult vaccine to protect us against hepatitis B! However, the vaccine doesn’t work if you are already infected.

Don’t forget to check out these free, confidential hepatitis screenings this weekend! Check out Hep B United’s resource to find local events in your area. You can also visit the CDC’s website for more ideas on how to increase awareness on National Hepatitis Testing Day, and every day!

Hepatitis Victoria’s “Little Hep B” Hero Book

Hepatitis Victoria in Melbourne, Australia recently released their “bright, colorful, positive and silly” children’s book, Little Hep B Hero! In addition to creating a book, Hepatitis Victoria also created an animation.

Little Hep B Hero, which is available in English, Simplified Chinese and Vietnamese, gives children and their families a delightful glimpse into a young girl’s visit to her neighbor and friend, Rosa. As Rosa and the young girl prepare food and lemonade together, Rosa tells her about living with chronic hepatitis B. Rosa explains what the liver does, what hepatitis B is, how the virus is transmitted, how she maintains a healthy lifestyle with chronic hepatitis B, and shares tips on preventing hepatitis B transmission. Little Hep B Hero also provides cute and easy to understand visuals of the little girl as a superhero while Rosa explains this information.

The book does an excellent job of explaining liver functions and what the hepatitis B virus does to the liver! The analogy of using a sieve to demonstrate how the liver filters toxins in the body was creative. The book also does a great job of indirectly tackling some myths associated with hepatitis B. For example, people are often hesitant to share meals with those living with chronic hepatitis B. Little Hep B Hero lets its audience know that you cannot get hepatitis B through food preparation or sharing a meal, so Rosa cooks a meal for her neighbors.

Little Hep B Hero is an important read for future generations and their families! Getting the conversation started early about hepatitis B will address the stigma and discrimination associated with it. When children are talking about hepatitis B and are knowledgeable about it, hepatitis B isn’t a scary topic anymore. The message of hepatitis B as a family matter highlights the importance of educating and testing family members.

For more information, check out their press release, and to purchase Little Hep B Hero, visit Hepatitis Victoria’s website here.

Journey to the Cure: What Programs are Available for People Living with Hepatitis B?

Welcome to “Journey to the Cure.” This is a web series that chronicles the progress at the Hepatitis B Foundation and Baruch S. Blumberg Institute towards finding the cure for hepatitis B.

In the second episode (part 2), Kristine Alarcon, MPH sits down with Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH, Vice President of Public Health Programs of the Hepatitis B Foundation, to talk about public health research at the Hepatitis B Foundation.

For any questions about hepatitis B, please email info@hepb.org.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this audio post is not intended to serve as medical advice of endorsement of any product. The Hepatitis B Foundation strongly recommends each person discuss this information and their questions with a qualified health care provider.

Edited by:
Kristine Alarcon, MPH and Samantha Young

Music:
Modern – iMovie Library Collection

Script:

Welcome to Journey to the Cure! Every month, we’ll sit down with scientists from the Hepatitis B Foundation and the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute to talk to you about hepatitis B and efforts to find a cure for hepatitis B. There’s still a long way to go, but we’re here to walk you through our journey.

Kristine Alarcon, MPH:
In our last episode, Dr. Block was talking about how the Hep B Foundation is dedicated to public health research. Can you tell us more about that?

Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH:
One of our major goals is to get everyone in the United States – or in the world really – but primarily in the US, everyone who has hepatitis B should be aware of their diagnosis and should be able to access to care. In order to do that, we have to do research. We have to figure out what are the best ways to get people tested and into care. In order to do that, we have to first figure out why people aren’t getting tested now, what barriers are people facing, what challenges are people facing to get tested, and how can we help them overcome those challenges. Every time we do a public health program, we are also doing research, so we are collecting a lot of data. And then, we use the data to develop new programs, and we share it with others as well. We also collect information and data on prevalence, so looking at where some of the high risk and highly impacted communities are in the U.S. We will do testing ourselves. We’ll go into communities in Philadelphia, and we’ll do hepatitis B testing. Through that, we know which communities need more care.

Kristine Alarcon, MPH:
What types of public health programs are you carrying out right now?

Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH:
We have a number of different programs right now. One is our Hep B United Philadelphia program, where we like to train the trainers. In Philadelphia, we’re training people who do health education; we’re training community leaders; and we’re helping them to learn about hep B, so that that they can go into high risk communities and teach other people about hep B. We’re also screening a lot of people. This year, we screened a little over 200 people for hepatitis B. When we find people to be infected, we link them into care. We’re also working on a new project, looking at the challenges that African immigrants face in the US in terms of hepatitis B testing. We’re trying to figure out what are the best ways to overcome those challenges and what are the best ways to get people tested and into care. And then, we have our #justB program, which is our national patient storytelling program, where people who have hep B or with family members who have hep B tell their stories and make videos, and they share how hep B has impacted their lives.

Kristine Alarcon, MPH:
Thank you so much for joining us in this episode!

Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH:
Thank you!

What Do I Do if I’m a Hepatitis B Vaccine Non-Responder?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Approximately 5-10% of people do not develop protective antibodies following the completion of the hepatitis B vaccine series.  This is confirmed with a blood test called an anti-HBs titer test which is given 4 weeks following the completion of the series. If the test shows the titer is less then 10 mIU/mL the general recommendation is to complete the series again using a different brand of vaccine (e.g. if you received Engerix B, the first time, switch to Recombivax the 2nd time or vice-versa).  A person is considered to be a “non-responder” if they have completed 2 full vaccination series’ without producing adequate protective antibodies.

Another vaccine option is the new two-dose hepatitis B vaccine, HEPLISAV-BTM. The new vaccine is expected to increase immunization rates for adults in the United States and is administered over a one-month period. The vaccine provides greater seroprotection, which can mean a greater antibody response especially in adults who may be older, obese or live with type 2 diabetes making it an effective vaccine option.

It is also possible that a person who does not respond to the vaccine may already be infected with hepatitis B. Therefore, testing for the presence of the hepatitis B virus (hepatitis B surface antigen or HBsAg) is recommended before diagnosing a person as a “vaccine non-responder.”

CDC Recommendations for Hepatitis B Vaccine Non-Responders

  • Persons who do not respond to the primary hepatitis B vaccine series (i.e., anti-HBs <10 mIU/mL) should complete a second 3-dose vaccine series or be evaluated to determine if they are HBsAg-positive. Persons who do not respond to an initial 3-dose vaccine series have a 30%–50% chance of responding to a second 3-dose series.
  • Revaccinated persons should be retested at the completion of the second vaccine series, 1-2 months following the last shot of the series.
  • Persons exposed to HBsAg-positive blood or body fluids who are known not to have responded to a primary vaccine series should receive a single dose of hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) and restart the hepatitis B vaccine series with the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after exposure. Alternatively, they should receive two doses of HBIG, one dose as soon as possible after exposure, and the second dose 1 month later.
  • The option of administering one dose of HBIG and restarting the vaccine series is preferred for non-responders who did not complete a second 3-dose vaccine series.
  • For persons who previously completed a second vaccine series but failed to respond, two doses of HBIG are preferred.

Hepatitis B vaccine “non-responders” who test negative for hepatitis B infection are at risk for being infected and should be counseled regarding how to prevent a hepatitis B infection and to seek immediate medical care to receive a dose of hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) if they have been exposed to potentially infected blood.

“Non-responders” who test negative for hepatitis B infection as well as friends and family members should practice ways to prevent the spread of hepatitis B, including washing hands, using condoms during sex, avoid direct contact with blood and bodily fluids, and more.

Hepatitis B vaccine “non-responders” to vaccination who test positive for hepatitis B infection should be counseled regarding how to prevent transmitting the hepatitis B virus to others and the need for regular medical care and monitoring for their chronic infection.

In the case of possible exposures to HBV infected blood or body fluids, it is recommended that non-responders receive 2 doses of hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) – the first dose should be given within 24 hours of the exposure, and the second dose should be given 1 month later.  The CDC has recommendations online for what to do in case a susceptible person is possibly exposed to the hepatitis B virus.

Check out our previous post on the topic here.

References:

CDC Guidance for Evaluating Health-Care Personnel for Hepatitis B Virus Protection and for Administering Postexposure Management. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6210a1.htm

HEPLISAV-B. Retrieved from: https://heplisavb.com/

#StigmaStops: Can We End Hepatitis B Discrimination

Around the world, millions of people with chronic hepatitis B face wrenching discrimination that limits their dreams, education, careers, income and personal relationships.

Discrimination is unethical, unnecessary and a violation of human rights. Hepatitis B is simply not transmitted through casual contact. The stigma that persists is based on ignorance and it impacts millions around the world daily. The United Nations created Zero Discrimination Day to highlight the negative impact of discrimination and promote tolerance, compassion and peace. Many hepatitis activist organizations, including the Hepatitis B Foundation, used this commemorative day to draw attention to global hepatitis B discrimination. Even though Zero Discrimination Day was on March 1, we still need to recognize the importance of stopping hepatitis B discrimination.

Every day is zero discrimination day, and ending discrimination starts with each of us working in any way we can in our communities to end this stigma.

No one is to blame for hepatitis B, and people who have hepatitis B deserve the same opportunities to live fulfilling lives – at work, at home and in the community.  . There is a safe and effective vaccine that prevents hepatitis B infection. When people are protected, there is no reason to fear that healthcare workers or hotel maids will spread this infection. Even without vaccination hepatitis B transmission can be avoided with simple prevention measures. Hepatitis B is not transmitted casually.

People who have hepatitis B are part of our global community. They are our mothers, brothers, doctors, teachers, spouses and friends. To learn about how the fear of discrimination affects people who have hepatitis B, check out some of our #justB patient stories. Jin’s story tells us how a vibrant young woman handles her fear, and Carolyn’s story shows us the devastating consequences of hiding a hepatitis B diagnosis.

It is morally reprehensible that given the tools and knowledge we have that discrimination against people who have hepatitis B should continue today. So we ask you to help us end this discrimination.

One way you can fight hepatitis B discrimination is by joining the World Health Alliance in their #StigmaStops awareness campaign. It is a year-long campaign that highlights the stigma and discrimination associated with hepatitis around the world. #StigmaStops provides people living with hepatitis a platform to strengthen their voice and speak about the stigma and its impact as well as dispel myths and misconceptions of hepatitis B. Another way to help is to talk about hepatitis B – with your colleagues, friends and family members. The more we talk openly about hepatitis B, the less it will be stigmatized. And feel free to share our #justB videos – they can be a great conversation starter!

Read our previous blogs about employment discrimination and more stories about hepatitis B discrimination.

Journey to the Cure: What is the Future of the Hep B Cure? ft. Timothy Block, PhD

Welcome to “Journey to the Cure” This is a web series that chronicles the progress at the Hepatitis B Foundation and Baruch S. Blumberg Institute towards finding the cure for hepatitis B.

In the first episode (part 2), Kristine Alarcon, MPH sits down with Timothy Block, PhD, President and Co-Founder of the Hepatitis B Foundation, to talk about what a hepatitis B cure could look like in the future.

For any questions about hepatitis B, please email info@hepb.org

Disclaimer: The information provided in this audio post is not intended to serve as medical advice or endorsement of any product. The Hepatitis B Foundation strongly recommends each person discuss this information and their questions with a qualified health care provider.

Special Thanks:
Samantha Young

Music:
Modern – iMovie Library Collection

 

Script: 

Welcome to Journey to the Cure! Every month, we’ll sit down with scientists from the Hepatitis B Foundation and the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute to talk to you about hepatitis B and efforts to find a cure for hepatitis B. There’s still a long way to go, but we’re here to walk you through our journey.

Timothy Block, PhD:
The Hepatitis B Foundation is now largely devoted to basically outreach and what I call human services or being there for people. We wanted, however, to keep pressure on research communities – to make sure there was a research organization. The Hepatitis B Foundation created a second non-profit organization, originally called the IHVR, renamed in Dr. Blumberg’s honor after he passed away; and that’s the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute. And that’s a group of research scientists.

Kristine Alarcon, MPH:
What do we need in order to find a cure for hepatitis B?

Timothy Block, PhD:
Well, we need more research. We need focused research and the community’s kind of coming together with a consensus. The Hepatitis B Foundation organized that workshop, which we published research priorities. We call it the “Roadmap to a Cure.” The more scholarly, conservative title for that is a research agenda- research priorities. We believe that if you follow that roadmap or you follow those lists, we will be most likely- I don’t want promise anything- but we will most likely to find if not a cure, transformational new medicines. But, I’m hopeful that they’ll be one form of cure. So you follow that roadmap, and we should get there.

Kristine Alarcon, MPH:
Thank you so much. This has been very insightful on what it looks like for the cure in the future. Thank you again for joining us.

Timothy Block, PhD:
Thank you again so much for the opportunity and what I want the listeners to know that the Hepatitis B Foundation is at the forefront of this work. We were there 27 years ago. We were there through the times when hepatitis B was being forgotten. The cure for hepatitis C has brought new focus on the problem of hepatitis and we were- and we’re here now. We’re sitting in an office that is in a building that has the Hepatitis B Foundation outreach and advocacy staff of nurses and public health professionals. We’re also here with as I said with 100 scientists, who are focused on looking for a cure for hepatitis B. We’re working for the commercial community, working with the academic community. But we’re here stimulating the research, promoting workshops, promoting seminars, but also doing our own research. So I hope that you keep that in mind and know that there are- there are a group of people who remain very focused on it.

Kristine Alarcon, MPH:
Thank you so much for joining us and we’ll see you on the next episode.

Questions? Please contact us at info@hepb.org

 

Raising Awareness about Hepatitis B in African Immigrant Communities in the US

Hepatitis B Foundation Health Outreach Coordinator and Guest Blogger Sierra Pellechio, B.S., CHES discusses her work with the African Immigrant community.   

Hepatitis B affects over 2 million people in the United States, disproportionately affecting Asian, Pacific Islander and African Immigrant (AI) communities in the U.S. Although partners around the U.S. have been trying to increase awareness and improve screening and linkage to care rates among high risk communities, there have been few programs designed to address the urgent need for intervention among U.S. AI communities. An estimated 5% to 18% of African immigrants in the U.S. are affected by hepatitis B, with less than 20% aware of their infection. However, since research and prevalence data specific to AIs are lacking, it has been difficult to understand the true burden of this disease. One thing we do know is that there are significant knowledge gaps and low screening and linkage to care rates in AI communities. If left undiagnosed, people with hepatitis B are at risk of developing liver complications, including cirrhosis and liver cancer, which can lead to premature death, making it vital to identify those affected. This is complicated by the fact that hepatitis B is a silent disease with few or no symptoms for decades.

Last year, the Hepatitis B Foundation, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and CHIPO (Coalition Against Hepatitis for People of African Origin) launched a pioneering project to create a broad scale educational initiative to promote hepatitis B awareness and testing for AIs across the United States.  The project aims to increase awareness, testing, linkage to care and vaccination among AI’s to align with the goals of the March 2017 A National Strategy for the Elimination of Hepatitis B and C by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). This strategy set the goal of eliminating hepatitis B as a public health threat in the U.S. by 2030.

Working with a diverse sixteen-member expert advisory committee comprised of African community leaders, providers, and public health experts from across the U.S., the first phase of this project assessed the individual, community, and society-level barriers that affect hepatitis B screening, vaccination, and linkage to care. Findings revealed that a potentially effective strategy for improving awareness and testing could involve first educating community health workers, who would then serve as trusted educators and advocates to promote education and testing in their communities. In collaboration with the advisory committee, the Hepatitis B Foundation is developing two training modules tailored to community health workers. The modules focus on providing basic hepatitis B information, addressing myths and stigma, and suggesting strategies for incorporating health messages into their work that are culturally and religiously relevant. These educational modules will have an accompanying audio recording, a comprehensive resource guide, and a flipchart for direct community education on hepatitis B. To ensure relevance and effectiveness, these materials will be pilot tested and revised prior to nationwide dissemination. Once the project concludes, resources and materials will be available on the Hepatitis B Foundation and CDC resource pages in early 2019.

If you are a community health worker working in the African Immigrant community and would like to connect, share resources, or learn more, please contact the manager of this project, Sierra Pellechio at sierra.pellechio@hepb.org.

Hepp-B Valentine’s Day: What to do on Valentine’s Day when you have hepatitis B.

Happy Valentine’s Day!! Today is dedicated to celebrating love. Though it can be exciting, anxiety can creep up on this day too. Maybe you’re thinking about confessing your feelings to your crush? Or nervous about planning the best date ever? Maybe you’re timid about the holiday in general because of your hepatitis B status?

If you have chronic hep B, you may think that starting a relationship and initiating sex can be stressful and feel overwhelming. Questions like “What if we break up because I disclosed my status?” or “Can I even start a relationship with someone if I have a chronic disease like hepatitis B?” may be swimming in your mind. Doubt and anxiety may overwhelm your thoughts, but don’t forget that you’re more than your illness. You should not focus on things you cannot change. You are worthy of love and can live out that romantic story you always wanted because you have wonderful things to offer to a future love interest.

If you’re spending time with someone on Valentine’s this year or any day, it’s important that you remember to take precautions if your date leads to an intimate night. If you are living with hep B, properly wearing a latex condom keeps you safe from becoming co-infected with another infectious disease. No one wants a co-infection. It is complicated and potentially dangerous for you and your partner’s health. If your partner does not have hep B, then avoid infection by wearing a condom. Hep B is vaccine preventable, but hepatitis C, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are not. Considering the health and safety of yourself and your sexual partners is paramount. You may not know what they have, and they may not know what you have.

Also, it is important to disclose your status before sex (even if it’s safe sex with a condom). You may jeopardize your partner’s trust (and their health) before the relationship deepens. Disclosing your chronic hep B status can be scary, but talking about it reduces the stigma surrounding the infection and may even prompt your partner to get tested or vaccinated if needed. If your partner is not understanding after you have explained your HBV infection, then you know that person was not meant for you, and not deserving of your love. There are other potential partners out there that will be understanding and loving. Do not let rejection discourage you!

Disclosure should be done calmly and carefully. It is important to do some research before you do disclose your hepatitis B status. Having a thorough understanding of hepatitis B can make it easier for you to explain it to a future partner. The more you know, the less scary and more comfortable it is to dispel fear, so that you can share your status with confidence and integrity.

Whether you think of today as Valentine’s or Single Awareness Day, remember that hep B is only a small part of who you are and should not be a reason for you to give up on loving someone. Remember that you are more than your chronic hep B! It’s only a part of you and does not define your entire life. You have so much to offer to your current or future partner!

Read our previous posts about dating and hepatitis B, advice for navigating the dating world for those with hepatitis B, disclosing your status on Valentine’s, loving safely on this holiday, and tips for disclosure (or a #justB video).

The Woodchuck Colony Legacy

Bud Christopher Tennant, DVM (1922-2016)

Did you know that the hepatitis B virus doesn’t just infect humans? It also infects chimpanzees1, tree shrews1, Peking ducks1, horses2, and woodchucks2. The hepatitis B virus that infects woodchucks is closely related to the human hepatitis B virus.2 Because of this, woodchucks have now become a prominent animal model in studying the hepatitis B virus and testing drugs for the disease.2,3

Behind every legacy, there is a man who started it all. In the case of the woodchucks and hepatitis B, there was Bud Tennant, DVM. Dr. Tennant was a California native, born in the San Joaquin Valley.2 He studied veterinary medicine, earning his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of California at Davis in 1959. 2 As a veterinarian, Dr. Tennant conducted research in comparative medicine focusing on hepatocarcinogenesis (development of liver cancer), hepatic injury mechanisms, viral hepatitis, and gastrointestinal and liver diseases of domestic animals.2

His work in hepatitis started during his tenure as the James Law Professor of Comparative Medicine at Cornell University, where he studied the pathogenesis of serum hepatitis in horses.2 He would not work with woodchucks until Dr. Norman Javitt, Chief of Gastroenterology at Weill-Cornell Medical College at the time, approached him, urging the need for an animal model for studying hepatitis B virus to understand pathogenesis, treatment, and prevention of hepatitis B. Dr. Javitt introduced him to Drs. Jesse Summer and William Mason’s research on a new virus infecting woodchucks, its close relation to human hepatitis B virus, and its association with chronic hepatitis B and liver cancer.

Dr. Tennant spent over thirty years on the study of Woodchuck Hepatitis Virus infection,  working with a colony of woodchucks in Ithaca, New York. 2 He developed the woodchuck as a successful animal model to learn how hepatitis B effects the liver, including the development of liver cancer. His work with the woodchuck model ultimately enabled scientists to run clinical therapeutic trials for treating hepatitis B in humans. 2 In fact, preclinical studies for almost every hepatitis B therapeutic drug licensed by the FDA have been conducted using the woodchuck model! Today, the Woodchuck Hepatitis Virus infection study continues at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. 2

Dr. Baruch S. Blumberg would also contact him to work together on fighting the hepatitis B virus in humans.

Dr. Bud Tennant is famous in the scientific world for his game-changing work in hepatitis B, and won many awards. At the 2016 Hepatitis B Foundation Crystal Ball, Dr. Tennant was presented with the 2016 Baruch S. Blumberg Prize, the Foundation’s highest honor. 2 He was also beloved by those who worked with him. He was known as “a towering physical presence, yet soft spoken and humble, and he was greatly admired for his good nature and his ability to share a story on just about any topic.” 2 Though Dr. Tennant passed away a little over a year ago, he will always be remembered for his unwavering commitment, and thought of as a valued friend and mentor to many scientists. 2

References:

  1. Schinazi, R.F., Ilan, E., Black, P.L., Yao, X., & Dagan, S. (1999). Cell-based and animal models for hepatitis B and C viruses. Antiviral Chemistry & Chemotherapy, 10, 99-114.
  2. Ithaca Journal. (2016, Nov 29). Bud Christopher Tennant. Retrieved from: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/theithacajournal/obituary-print.aspx?n=bud-christopher-tennant&pid=182819897
  3. Hepatitis B Foundation. (2016). HBF at the Forefront: Hepatitis B Foundation Hits Nearly $125,000 Monte Carlo Jackpot!, B Informed, 69, 5.