February 28, 2001
MEDIA CONTACT: David Bricker
PHONE: (410) 223-1728
Childrenís Center gastroenterologist Kathleen Schwarz, M.D., received a $1 million research grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to study viral hepatitis in the children of injection drug users. These children are known to be at risk for hepatitis B and C infection via maternal-fetal and possibly other means of transmission.
The four-year project is designed to improve hepatitis B immunization rates and learn more about how the hepatitis C virus spreads. "We need to develop a multifaceted strategy," says Schwarz, lead researcher on the grant. "That means we need to compare conventional strategies with new, culturally appropriate educational materials, reminder systems, and administration of vaccines where children are - in outreach clinics, homeless shelters and transitional housing."
Schwarz sought funding for the project after learning of the high frequency of viral hepatitis in Johns Hopkins Hospitalís adult emergency room patients and in adult injection drug users visiting the hospitalís "Alive and Reach" treatment clinics. Schwarz believes that children of these patients may not be receiving appropriate hepatitis B immunizations and hepatitis C screenings.
Schwarz says eradication of hepatitis B and C infection among U.S. children could save at least $200 million over the next 10 years.