Last year, as many as 15-thousand people in Korea were diagnosed with hepatitis A.
This is a 16-fold surge from 2005.
The mortality rate of this flu-like disease stood at 185 dead last year which is actually higher than that of the H1N1 virus.
But researchers have made a breakthrough in developing a vaccine that can be consumed and not injected to prevent the disease.
Behind this achievement are the Rural Development Administration and Kyung Hee University's research team headed by Professor Chung In-shik.
At the heart of this vaccine prototype are tomatoes and tobacco from which substances are extracted and genetically altered to create an antigen protein.
While there was a similar precedent for hepatitis B the scientists say this is the world's first discovery for hepatitis A using flora-based substances.
"Hepatitis A is usually contracted through the respiratory tract and an orally administered vaccine is more effective than injections."
Other merits include a lower risk of contamination by foreign viruses in the manufacturing process and a more affordable price due to mass production made easier by cultivation.
"The vaccine is eaten like food and yet has the same effect as injections. It is inexpensive and convenient as well."
At the moment, researchers have finished animal testing and an international patent is pending.
But commercializing this novel vaccine will have to wait about six years.
More research has to be done on human clinical tests and genetic modification.
Park Jong-hong, Arirang News.