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New Study Aims to Better Understand Hepatitis Infection in Deployed U.S. Forces

November 29, 2011
MHRP investigators are participating in a new study that will help the military better understand how the infection affects members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

Little is known about the risk hepatitis poses to military personnel, especially through exposure to non-FDA approved blood products used in emergency battlefield situations (the emergency blood supply). MHRP investigators are participating in a new study that will help the military better understand how the infection affects members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. 

This collaborative effort will investigate new infections among deployed forces identifying when and where the infection occurred. To do this, researchers will examine samples from more than 17,000 recently deployed service members. From this, researchers will be able to generate precise estimates of those at increased risk for infection, and those found to be infected with hepatitis B or C infection will be referred to specialty care. 

The results of this study are anticipated in early 2012. The data will inform pre-deployment screening and vaccination policy, risk assessment and clinical decision making in the field, and the predictive values of rapid tests used on the battlefield to screen emergency blood products.

This U.S. Army Public Health Command-led (USAPHC) effort is being carried out in response to a request from the CENTCOM Surgeon and the Joint Staff Surgeon   and in collaboration with Army, Navy, and Air Force clinical subspecialty representatives and MHRP.  This investigation follows a recent report by Hakre et al.published in the journal Transfusion that described one case of a transfusion-transmitted hepatitis C infection associated with non-FDA compliant blood used in an emergency blood transfusion. 

In addition to this study, MHRP investigators will participate in a newly formed Hepatitis C Working Group, chartered and sponsored by the Military Infectious Disease Research Program. This group will convene a symposium to address the important gaps in knowledge or materiel that, if filled, could improve the Department of Defense’s ability to develop and implement effective policy and minimize the impact of hepatitis C on the force.