Researchers Discovered A Specific Peptide That May Block The Hepatitis C Virus Entry
According to a study led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH), infection with hepatitis C may benefit from a new treatment. Researchers have discovered a new target that could block the virus from entering the liver. The discovery started with an earlier finding that reveals that apolipoprotein E forms complexes with hepatitis C virus. It appears that these complexes (hEP) prevents the virus to bind to other hepatocytes. Therefore, if the virus can not bind to hepatocytes, the infection does not occur. Also, researchers have found that an important role in fighting hepatitis C infection is the length of peptide hEP. Shorter sequences are unable to protect the body from infection.
Hepatitis C is an RNA virus belonging to the flaviviridae family. Transmission of infection is mande mainly through the parenteral route (blood transfusions), and less through sexual or maternal-fetal route. Seroconversion after infection occurs later, after about 100 days. Infection with hepatitis C is a public health problem, because approximately 60-70% of those infected with HCV develop chronic hepatitis. It is important to note that those with chronic hepatitis C have an increased risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatitis C virus has very high replication rate which causes genomic variability. And therefore treatment of chronic hepatitis C or cirrhosis is difficult.
Approximately 3% of the world population is infected with virus C, meaning 170 million individuals and more than half of them develop chronic hepatitis. Tianyi Wang, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, GSPH, and the study’s lead author, says:” “New antiviral drugs are urgently needed to treat HCV infection independently, or in combination with current therapies.”
The treatment of patients infected with virus C is based on a combination of interferon and ribavirin. Ribavirin is a nucleoside analogue with direct antiviral activity and interferon alpha 2a is an antiviral drug that helps fight the virus infection. Interferon alpha has several advantages over the standard interferon, such as constant absorption and continuous suppression of the virus. It should be noted however that not all patients can benefit from ribavirin-interferon combination therapy. There are some patients excluded from treatment with interferon, such as those with neurological diseases, mental diseases, uncontrolled diabetes, autoimmune diseases, severe chronic diseases (heart failure, respiratory failure) and those aged over 65. Also, there are patients who do not respond to treatment or relapse. This is due to the persistence of virus in areas inaccessible to the immune system. Also an important role in viral persistence is genetic variability of hepatitic C virus (there are 6 main types of hepatitis C virus and many other subtypes).