A Step Forward in Treating Hepatitis C

Researchers have discovered the structure of a hepatitis C protein, and the finding could help scientists develop a vaccine for the deadly illness.

Joseph Marcotrigiano, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University, says the research has uncovered the structure of an “outer region” of hepatitis C that enables the virus to evade the body’s immune system.

Hepatitis C has infected 3.2 million Americans. It causes chronic infections that are difficult to treat because the virus is constantly mutating. By identifying the structure of virus's outer protein, Marcotrigiano, the study’s lead author, says scientists will be better able to develop a vaccine that targets the immune system to vulnerable regions of the virus in order to prevent infection.

 “Viruses are smart and it is a constant battle to keep them out,” says Marcotrigiano who collaborated on the research with colleagues from Rutgers and the Emory University School of Medicine.  “That’s why the development of a vaccine is so important.  It’s always better to prevent infection through an effective vaccine then to treat after a chronic infection has been established.”

Globally, 160 million people are infected with hepatitis C. Most don’t show symptoms until the virus has infected the liver and caused severe damage to that organ. The virus is mainly sp.  Prior to read through contact with an infected person’s blood, such as sharing of needles 1992, when donated blood began being tested, the virus was also spread through blood transfusions and organ donation.

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved several new drugs that could cure many patients infected with hepatitis C in as little as 12 weeks.  However, at about $1000 per pill this may not be a cost-effective solution to hepatitis C virus.

The finding was published in the journal Nature.


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