Hepatitis C: Progress Towards Vaccine?

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Updated: 6/03 3:46 pm

Dec. 6, 2007 -- Scientists have discovered antibodies that target the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The findings may lead to a preventive hepatitis C vaccine.

The hepatitis C virus can cause liver damage and can be deadly.

There is no hepatitis C vaccine. That's partly because "extreme variability" in HCV makes the virus a difficult target, write Mansun Law, PhD, and colleagues.

Law works in the immunology department at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif.

Law's team found antibodies that neutralize various forms of the hepatitis C virus. They tested those antibodies against the HCV virus in mice.

The researchers injected the antibodies into some mice. For comparison, other mice didn't get the antibodies.

After that, all of the mice were exposed to HCV. Six days later, the HCV virus was gone from the mice that had received the antibodies -- but the hepatitis C virus lingered in the other mice.

The antibodies' effects against HCV faded with time, and high doses of the antibodies were needed to curb HCV.

More work is needed, but the results are "favorable" for the prospects of developing a hepatitis C vaccine, write Law and colleagues.

Their findings appear in today's advance online edition of Nature Medicine.

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