Vitamin E may prove useful in chronic hepatitis B.




Antiviral Res

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Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted through contact with infected blood or body fluids. In the majority of infected individuals, symptoms are mild or absent. Approximately 15 to 20 percent experience joint pain and 10 percent develop jaundice. Ten percent of those infected develop chronic HBV infection. Active chronic HBV infection is associated with high risk of cirrhosis. Those at highest risk of becoming infected include sexually active heterosexuals, homosexual men, infants born to infected mothers, health care workers and IV drug users. Incidence of hepatitis B has decreased since the introduction of the HBV vaccine, but has increased since 1993 among the sexually active and IV drug users. Prevention is aimed at vaccinations, screening of blood, organ, and tissue donors, and universal precautions among health care workers.

Treatment for HBV has centered around Interferon-alpha treatment and the recent addition of Lamivudine. Interferon-alpha treatment is effective in only a small number of patients even though it is widely prescribed. Lamivudine is one of a new class of antiviral drugs. It appears to be very effective and well tolerated by those with hepatitis B infection. Lamivudine often works when alpha-interferon has failed and it appears to be extremely safe. Unfortunately, recurrence of viremia after lamivudine withdrawal may occur making the investigation into other treatments options desirable.

Investigators in Italy recently conducted a small controlled pilot study that examined the use of vitamin E as a possible therapy for chronic hepatitis B. The 32 patients in this study were divided into either a group who received vitamin E therapy or a group who received no therapy. At the end of the study period, blood tests showed that those receiving the vitamin E therapy had improved in several designated areas where the group receiving no treatment did not. The study did not state how these results might compare to the results of successful conventional drug therapy, but never the less led investigators to conclude that vitamin E might be a viable treatment option for patients with chronic hepatitis B.1


1. Andreone P. Vitamin E as treatment for chronic hepatitis B: results of a randomized controlled pilot trial. Antiviral Res 2001 Feb;49(2):75-81.