Two Chinks in the Armor of Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C has varying strains of the virus

(RxWiki News) In the middle ages, a great time to attack one's enemies is while they were sleeping. Researchers have found two times when the hepatitis C vaccine may be easily attacked.

Researchers from the British Isles have identified two times when hepatitis C vaccine (HCV) may be vulnerable to attack: At the point of transmission and three months after it invades the body.

"Hepatitis C is serious, ask your doctor if you have questions."

Fabio Luciani, Ph.D., from the University of New South Wale's (UNSW) Inflammation and Infection Research Centre and the research team's biostatistician reports that they discovered two weakness in the hepatitis C vaccine he refers to as “two Achilles heels."

These weaknesses are great targets for new vaccines because if researchers are able to develop attack systems early on, then possibly they could eliminate the infection from invading the whole body.

Rowena Bull, Ph.D. and research fellow at UNSW explains that the first vulnerable point was identified at transmission, when HCV survival is critical to infect another.

The second vulnerable time, surprisingly, is when the is a dramatic drop in the diversity of the viral variants. This occurs at about three months in all individuals, when the immune system starts “charging up” to fight the virus. This point and time, given the lower number of variants present is another opportune time when attacking the virus.

Study leader Professor Andrew Lloyd, also of UNSW explains these discoveries are significant because of their potential to get over the hurdle of the longstanding barriers to HCV vaccine development.

One reason HCF has been difficult to target with single interventions is because there are many varying strains of the virus. Pinpointing a time when there are less variations in the body discloses a great time for attack. Similar to HIV, HCV mutates quite quickly in order to evade the immune system.

Lloyd goes on to say 33 percent of infected people have a natural immune response that eliminates the virus early on. This tells researchers that early infection assault is critical for fighting this virus.

This paper is published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

Review Date: 
September 13, 2011