Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School and the Veteran Administration Medical Center report the exciting discovery that oral supplementation with thiamine (vitamin B1) is effective in the treatment of hepatitis B (HBV). It is estimated that 400 million people worldwide suffer from chronic hepatitis B virus infection. The infection may lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure and death. Current medical therapy using interferon or lamivudine (Heptovir, Combivir) is not terribly effective and can have devastating side effects. The rate of progression of HBV is usually judged by measuring aminotransferase levels and the presence of DNA from the hepatitis-B virus in blood samples. The researchers describe three cases where the aminotransferase levels dropped dramatically (to normal levels) and the presence of HBV DNA became undetectable after oral supplementation with 100 mg/day of thiamine. Biopsies performed on two of the patients also showed decreased inflammation of the liver after extended thiamine therapy. The researchers speculate that thiamine has antiviral properties and may slow or reverse liver damage due to iron toxicity. They conclude, based on their three cases studies and a larger study performed earlier in China, that "thiamine may be a useful treatment for hepatitis B and, potentially, for other viral syndromes". They emphasize that thiamine therapy is safe, has no side effects, and is inexpensive.
Wallace, Amy Elizabeth and William Brinson Weeks. Thiamine treatment of chronic hepatitis B infection. American Journal of Gastroenterology, Vol. 96, March 2001, pp. 864-68