A decade of research into hepatitis C may have yielded results as researchers in Canada have announced the discovery of a vaccine against the disease.
Hepatitis C is more virulent than HIV, and it was believed coming up with a vaccine would be almost impossible. However, researchers from the University of Alberta say a vaccine has been developed from a single strain, and has shown to be effective against all known strains of the virus.
The vaccine was capable of eliciting broad cross-neutralising antibodies against all the different major strains – a finding which bodes well for those with the disease, and those travelling to areas where it is prevalent.
“This tells us that a vaccine made from a single strain can indeed neutralise all the viruses out there,” said Michael Houghton, who led the team that discovered the hepatitis C virus in 1989. “It really encourages the further development of that vaccine. This is a really big step forward for the field of HCV vaccinology.”
Houghton – the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology – warns that further testing is required and that it may be another five to seven years before the vaccine receives approval. Even then, those currently suffering from the disease are not likely to benefit as the vaccine is more of a preventative measure against acquiring the disease, rather than treating it.