University of Alberta and Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology researchers have introduced a new vaccine for hepatitis C virus, the team was led by Michael Houghton, who discovered the virus in the year 1989.
The challenge, Houghton said, was that hepatitis C is more virulent than HIV, thus coming up with a vaccine that would neutralize the different strains around the world was believed to be impossible. Using a vaccine developed and tested on humans in his University of Alberta lab, Houghton and his co-investigator John Law discovered that the vaccine was capable of eliciting broad cross-neutralising antibodies against all the different major strains. Houghton says that this finding bodes good news for those with hep C and those who live or travel to areas where the disease is prevalent.
With hundreds of thousands of people being infected with hepatitis C annually, and with between 20 to 30 per cent of those developing some form liver disease, this announcement brings hope. However, Houghton cautions that further testing is required, meaning that it may be five to seven years before the vaccine receives approval. And while it may make some difference in those currently suffering from hepatitis C, it is mainly a preventative measure against acquiring the disease.