Study: Racial Disparity on Hepatitis

Wednesday, July 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) — Studies have shown that many hepatitis C patients recover from the liver-threatening disease, but new research suggests black people are much less likely to become free of the virus than whites.

A study by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine showed that white people are about five times more likely to become virus-free than blacks.

The study, which appears in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, was not designed to explain the disparity, although lead researcher Dr. David L. Thomas speculated that genetics might be a possible cause.

About 4 million people nationwide are infected with hepatitis C, a virus that attacks the liver and is spread through contact with an infected person's blood. It kills as many as 10,000 Americans each year, mostly by causing cirrhosis or liver cancer. However, it may remain dormant for decades and some people eventually lose all trace of the virus.

The research on 1,667 people who acquired the virus through injected drug use supports previous findings showing most patients don't get life-threatening liver damage.

Government estimates have suggested that only 15 percent of hepatitis C patients may develop cirrhosis and 5 percent may die of cirrhosis or cancer. The new study showed lower death and disease rates, which the authors said may have resulted in part from the relatively young age and good health of their subjects.


On the Net: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hepatitis C information: