Early treatment key to combating hepatitis C virus

August 9th, 2008 - 2:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Aug 9 (IANS) Patients who receive timely treatment for the Hepatitis C virus after infection develop a comprehensive immune response against the virus, according to a new study published in the Journal of Virology. Therefore, early treatment can restore immune response against Hapatitis C virus and help to eliminate it rapidly. This new discovery of the mechanisms of viral eradication could spur development of new treatments.

About a quarter of infected individuals are known to eradicate the infection spontaneously, sans treatment, according to the study.

Led by Naglaa Shoukry and Julie Bruneau, affiliated to both the Université de Montréal Hospital Centre and the Université de Montréal, as well as with other researchers, the study found that early treatment restores a rapid poly-functional immune response, characterized by simultaneous production of multiple antiviral mediators.

HCV is transmitted through infected blood. Although a quarter of infected patients can eradicate the infection spontaneously, the majority develop persistent infection, a major cause of cirrhosis and cancer of the liver.

The only approved treatment for HCV is an anti-viral drug known as pegylated interferon alpha. This drug is successful in only half of cases when administered during chronic infection. Success rates among those treated early after infection are significantly higher or around 90 percent.

In North America alone, most new HCV infections occur among intravenous drug users (IDUs), a vulnerable population that is often undiagnosed and untreated. In the study, researchers followed a group of IDUs at high risk of HCV infection before and immediately after exposure to HCV.

Their findings clearly show the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of HCV - particularly in marginalised populations such as IDUs and aboriginal populations.

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