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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Health Note/Hepatitis B Research

Air Date: Week of October 4, 2002

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Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on research that suggests a combination of western and Chinese medicines could benefit patients with hepatitis B.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Coming up, the fiscal crunch faced by national parks. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.

[THEME MUSIC]

TOOMEY: Three hundred fifty million people worldwide are chronically infected with hepatitis B, a virus that can lead to liver damage and even cancer. A full three-quarters of those live in Asia. And many of them are treated with Chinese herbal medicine. Studies that gauge the effectiveness of this treatment for hepatitis rarely get published in English-language journals. So scientists at the University of California-Berkeley analyzed research that appeared in Chinese language journals. They reviewed more than two dozen studies in which one group of patients used herbal medicine alone or in combination with interferon, a standard hepatitis treatment.

That group was compared to patients who just received interferon. All the studies evaluated patients after three months of treatment by measuring their level of viral activity. Researchers found the most effective treatment appeared to be a combination of Western and herbal medicine. In three standard blood tests, the patients who received both those treatments were up to twice as likely to have reached an undetectable level of virus compared to patients who received interferon alone.

While the Berkeley researchers found these results promising, they did have some major criticisms of the Asian scientists’ methodology. So they say they plan to help train a group of Chinese clinicians on how to conduct more rigorous experiments in the future.

That’s this week’s Health Note. I’m Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living On Earth.

[MUSIC: Miles Davis, "Right Off," A TRIBUTE TO JACK JOHNSON (Columbia, 1992)]

 

Links

UC/Berkley Media Release on Hepatitis B

 

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