Professor Groopman explains that we have an effective vaccine against the hepatitis B virus, but because the transmission of this virus occurs very early in life, we need to have the resources and the ability to vaccinate the world for the rest of the 21s
John Groopman, Ph.D. is the Chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. His research focuses on the molecular causes and effects of environmental factors that may lead to the development of cancers. This research has led to the development of biomarkers used in studies of high-risk aflatoxin-hepatitis B populations specifically in China.
“We have a very effective vaccine against the hepatitis B virus, but because the transmission of this virus occurs very early in life, we need to have the resources and the ability to vaccinate the world for the rest of 21st century in order to eliminate this virus as a factor in liver cancer development. Our studies also showed that aflatoxin contributes to the development of liver cancer. And it contributes to the development of liver cancer as a consequence of children who once they are no longer being breastfed start to consume the normal everyday adult diet. And so, the studies that we did that showed that there was this very powerful multiplicative interaction between the virus and aflatoxin, indicated to us that if we could block aflatoxin as a major factor in the development of liver cancer, we would be able to lower risk of individuals. At the same time, there needs to be the public health wherewithal in order to vaccinate populations as the birth rate of a country moves forward. Simply put, there are almost three billion people in the world who are at risk for the development of hepatitis B virus infection. And the economic resources do not exist right now for doing the types of vaccinations that need to be done for all the children who are being born year in and year out. And so, this is one of the big public health challenges that even when we have an effective vaccine you still need the economic resources for vaccination and distribution.”
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Professor Kensler explains that Aflatoxin is a lipid soluble molecule that is rapidly absorbed and it goes first to the liver where there are enzymes that will chemically biotransform it into a very reactive chemical.