Michael Houghton, who discovered the hepatitis C virus, says that in about five years the vaccine for this disease will be ready thanks to the studies developed since its discovery. Houghton recently noted that today around 170 million people worldwide are infected with this virus.
The discovery of the Hepatitis C virus, 20 years ago, has allowed the development of tests that detect its presence in the blood to ensure that donations and transfusions are safe.
The treatment currently used against the disease achieves the healing of 50% of the patients, and in Europe and the United States only 15% of the patients recovered completely. The new treatment consists of the combination of two drugs (interferon alfa and ribavirin), still under study. If confirmed, it is expected that the cure rate will reach 70%, and that the periods in which treatment is followed will be shorter.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV)
Discovered in 1989, the virus is found mainly in the liver and blood. The virus enters the body, and through the blood reaches the liver. The body's response to the infection of hepatocytes (liver cells) with HCV produces a liver inflammation called "acute hepatitis".
If this inflammatory reaction continues it begins to damage the liver tissue itself becoming "chronic hepatitis". The main contagion occurs by contact with the blood of an infected person.