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Hepatitis B Vaccine Undergoes Second Clinical Tests
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The second phase of clinical tests of China's hepatitis B vaccine are being carried out on 46 chronic hepatitis B patients to test the vaccine's effectiveness, according to expert Wu Yuzhang.

The patients began treatment in June and will remain under close medical observation until the tests end next March, said Wu, head of the Immunology Institute of the People's Liberation Army.

The research team headed by Wu completed the first phase of clinical test of the vaccine in June 2003. Nine months of monitoring proved that the tests are safe for humans.

52 healthy volunteers are taking part in the tests.

"The vaccine needs to go through a third phase of clinical tests before being put into production. The third phase of tests will be conducted on a larger group of hepatitis B patients to test safety and effectiveness," Wu said.

It is estimated that about 100 million Chinese are living with hepatitis B and about 20 million of them are chronic hepatitis B patients. Each year in China about 280,000 people die of cirrhosis or liver cancer linked to hepatitis B. Globally, about 350 million people are infected with hepatitis B.

Wu said the hepatitis B global inoculation scheme being promoted by the World Health Organization is based on a preventive vaccine, which has no effect on infected people and fails to protect five to 15 percent of newborns. So far, no vaccine has succeeded in killing the virus in the patient's body, he said.

Li Lanjuan, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said at a recent medical forum that current hepatitis B vaccines have no effect on about five percent of receivers, and cannot kill the virus completely.

Wu said China has full intellectual property rights over the new vaccine.

China has recently stepped up efforts to raise public awareness of the disease. The Chinese Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control has invited Andy Lau, a famous Hong Kong star, who is carrying the hepatitis B virus, to be a publicity ambassador for the prevention and control of the disease.

The Chinese Ministry of Health has begun a year-long nationwide survey of the hepatitis B situation, in order to update data and guidelines on prevention and control of the disease.

(Xinhua News Agency October 26, 2006)

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