Local team of researchers given $25 million to find cure for hepatitis B

The Health Sciences Authority's blood bank. Hepatitis B is spread through direct contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person.
The Health Sciences Authority's blood bank. Hepatitis B is spread through direct contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A team of local researchers in search of a cure for hepatitis B, a potentially life-threatening liver infection, has been given a $25 million boost.

The money will fund studies into the mechanisms behind the hepatitis B virus, as well as studies into how a person's genes or immune system makes the virus more or less active.

Over the next five years, the team of 29 researchers and scientists hope to develop new treatments to eradicate hepatitis B in Singapore, said lead researcher, Professor Lim Seng Gee, announcing the grant on Monday.

An integral part of the team's research will be a cohort study of 2,500 hepatitis B patients, who will be monitored through blood tests, ultrasound and other tests for changes in their condition.

Hepatitis B is spread through direct contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person.

Symptoms include jaundice, dark urine, and nausea. Those with hepatitis B have a higher risk of developing liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.

According to the Health Promotion Board, an estimated one in 35 adult Singaporeans are hepatitis B carriers.

To date, vaccination remains the single most effective way to prevent hepatitis B. However it cannot help patients already with the disease.