HCV vaccine looks promising

According to an article in Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News, a study led by Michael Houghton, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology at the University of Alberta, has reinforced hopes that a vaccine for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is possible by demonstrating that a vaccine derived from a single strain of the virus can elicit antibodies that target multiple strains.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates up to 150 million people worldwide suffer from chronic hepatitis C infection, with the disease causing as many as 500,000 deaths each year. In the United States, more than 70,000 people have died from HCV in the past decade, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes this figure is a mere fraction of the total number of people who have the blood-borne liver illness.

The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Virology, is therefore significant news.

“I think it’s very good news for developing a hep C vaccine,” said Houghton. “As recently as a few years ago, people were generally thinking in the field that HCV was going to be rather like HIV, insofar as being very difficult to be able to elicit antibodies from a vaccine that could neutralize or kill the infectivity of multiple viral strains.”

Houghton was the first to successfully identify and clone the hepatitis C virus in 1989.