Scientists develope first ever hepatitis C vaccine

Scientists develope first ever hepatitis C vaccine

Scientists claim to have developed the first ever preventative vaccine for deadly Hepatitis C, a liver illness affecting about 200 million people worldwide.

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease primarily of the liver, caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and a preventative vaccine has the potential to have a significant global health impact, researchers at the Burnet Institute, Melbourne said in a statement.

With this finding, scientists said they have solved a hepatitis C vaccine mystery which once developed could be the first ever preventative vaccine for the virus.

As the virus has a greater ability to change its structure and evade the immune response, they said it is difficult to vaccinate against.

The infection is often asymptomatic, but can lead to scarring of the liver and ultimately to cirrhosis, which is apparent after many years.

In some cases, those with cirrhosis will go on to develop liver failure and liver cancer.

Currently undergoing formal pre-clinical studies, the vaccine is the result of a breakthrough work done by Heidi Drummer, Associate Professor from Burnet Institute.

Drummer and her team have overcome a major hurdle in HCV vaccine research, developing a vaccine candidate that protects against a number of different HCV strains, according to a Burnet statement.

"Hepatitis C has a great ability to change its structure and evade the immune response. This makes vaccine development challenging," Drummer said.

"Our vaccine is unique as it contains only the most essential, conserved parts of the major viral surface protein, eliciting antibodies that prevent both closely and distantly related hepatitis C viruses from entering cells, thereby preventing infection," Drummer said.

There are some phase one clinical studies going on in the UK and Europe at the moment, looking at some different approaches. Our vaccine uses a completely different technology to those vaccines that have been previously trialled and those in trial at the moment, Drummer said.

Drummer presented these findings at the Immunotherapeutics and Vaccine Summit (ImVacS) in Cambridge, Massachussets, US, on August 13. 

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