Vaccine Against Hepatitis C Virus Discovered
Researchers from the University of Alberta and Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology announced this afternoon at the Canada Research Chair Summit in Vancouver thae discovery of a vaccine against hepatitis C. Until now, an effective vaccine against this kind of infection was not available. The announcement was made by the leader of the research team that discovered the hepatitis C virus back in 1989, Michael Houghton.
Research leaders announced that the vaccine is made from only one C virus strain but has already shown its effectiveness against all known C virus strains. For developing this vaccine more than 10 years were needed. Prior to this discovery, vaccines tested in clinical trials have shown limited results.
Hepatitis C virus is a more virulent virus than HIV and this represented the biggest challenge for scientists as they believed that it would be impossible to discover a vaccine which can neutralize different strains of hepatitis C virus. After the vaccine was tested on humans, researchers observed that it is capable to neutralize antigens and antibodies against all different major strains of hepatitis C virus.
“This tells us that a vaccine made from a single strain can indeed neutralize all the viruses out there. It really encourages the further development of that vaccine. This is a really a big step forward for the field of hepatitis C virus vaccinology.”, said the leader of the research.
Every year thousands of people are being infected with hepatitis C virus and 20 to 30 per cent will suffer at one point from chronic liver disease, even hepatic cancer. For this reason the new discover represents a big step forward in the prevention of hepatitis C and brings hope among people with this disease. The researchers also highlight that further testing is needed and maybe in the next five to seven years the vaccine will be approved and used as a prevention method.
“A breakthrough such as this one is exactly the kind of advance we believed would happen here when we created the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology and recruited internationally renowned researchers such as Michael Houghton and his colleagues,” said U of A President Indira Samarasekera.
This ambitious program in which world-class virologists were attracted represents the exact findings that the 21st century needs. It is true that the exact date when this vaccine will be used in clinical practice remains unknown, but the impact on the medical world of such a vaccine will be major. The researchers also believe that in the near future they will be able to discover other desperately needed vaccines.
These findings demonstrate that the Li Ka Shing Institute is a very important player in the field for virology research and its leaders are constantly working, providing and translating laboratory findings to patients.