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article imageCanadian science: Hepatitis C breakthrough

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By Tim Sandle     Apr 27, 2012 in Science
After many years of research a group of Canadian scientists have announced a possible breakthrough for the development of a vaccine for hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C (or HCV) is a virus which can lead to serious illnesses and it is more virulent than HIV. Hepatitis C is an infectious disease affecting primarily the liver. HCV is spread primarily by blood-to-blood contact associated with intravenous drug use, poorly sterilized medical equipment and transfusions.
For many years scientists have thought that developing a hepatitis C vaccine was unlikely due to the complexities involved and resistance of the virus to most known compounds, the science website The Argosy reports. However, a research team based at the University of Alberta have posted research findings which indicate that a potential vaccine has been developed. The vaccine appears to be effective against all known strains of the hepatitis C virus.
According to a press release from the University of Alberta, the vaccine works by stimulating antibodies to fight the viral infection. If successful it could possibly be used to treat those who have the disease and can certainly be used by those most at risk from contracting it. However, it will take at least five years before the vaccine can be put forwards for regulatory approval from bodies like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The research team was led by Michael Houghton, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology.
Houghton is quoted by Daily Mail as saying “I think that’s great news for our efforts to develop a vaccine for hepatitis. In the HIV field, for example, it’s been the Holy Grail for many years to try to elicit antibodies that can neutralize all the different types around the world… I’ve been working on the vaccine for 15 years [and] for so many years, the field felt that antibodies would be very restricted in their neutralizing ability, that you could only neutralize the same strain that the vaccine was derived from.”
If the vaccine is proved successful, this will be an important medical breakthrough.
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