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Could a Vaccine for Hepatitis C Be Near?

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Could a Vaccine for Hepatitis C Be Near?

First phase of human trials are complete

A potential vaccine against hepatitis C, a liver disease that affects at least 130 million people worldwide, has been found safe in people.

The results of a human trial, which indicate the vaccine can boost the immune system safely, are welcome news, said study co-author Ellie Barnes, M.D., of the University of Oxford in England. “We hope it will have the capacity to prevent people from being infected,” she said, “and that’s something we really need.”

About 1 percent of Americans have chronic hepatitis C, usually transmitted through infected blood. A new drug, Sovaldi, received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval late last year and has a high success rate in treatment of the disease, but it’s expensive, costing $1,000 per day, or $84,000 for a 12-week course. Another shortcoming: The pricey new meds don’t work as well in patients with advanced liver disease, and they don’t prevent reinfection.

Creating a vaccine for hepatitis C has been slow in coming because the germs trick the immune system. “They can put on a disguise and prevent antibodies from seeing them,” Dr. Barnes said. “What we’re trying to do is develop a T-cell vaccine, which works by inducing T cells, a totally different part of the immune system.”

In the first phase of human trials, researchers tested parts of the vaccine in 15 people and it was well tolerated with only mild side effects. Two more stages of research in larger groups of people are needed before the vaccine can receive FDA approval.

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BHM Edit Staff