Science / Medicine : Progress on Hepatitis Vaccine

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Researchers last week reported success in tests of a vaccine to combat a form of hepatitis that often afflicts children exposed to unsanitary conditions in day-care centers. The vaccine created high levels of immunity to hepatitis A among 150 children tested in rural Kentucky, researcher Stanley L. Block of Bargetown, Ky., told a meeting sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology.

The study should support an application to license the vaccine, he said. A spokesman for the manufacturer, Merck Sharpe & Dohme, said no license request had yet been made. "Recent outbreaks of the infection in California, Texas and Louisville, Ky., underscore the magnitude of the problem," Block said.

"Children in day-care centers and young adults are at greatest risk in this country," he added. "The disease poses a more general health threat for visitors to areas of inadequate sanitation and hygiene where food or water-borne fecal contamination may spread the causative virus."

The disease is less dangerous than hepatitis B, for which a vaccine is already on the market. Currently the common way to protect against hepatitis A exposure is through an injection of immune globulin isolated from human blood.

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