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Discovery of canine hepatitis C virus opens up new doors for research on deadly human pathogen
Date:5/23/2011

In a study to be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers report the discovery of a novel hepatitis C-like virus in dogs. The identification and characterization of this virus gives scientists new insights into how hepatitis C in humans may have evolved and provides scientists renewed hope to develop a model system to study how it causes disease.

The research was conducted at the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, the University of Edinburgh, the Center for the Study of Hepatitis C and Pfizer Veterinary Medicine.

Human hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects approximately 200 million people worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3.2 million people in the United States are chronically infected. The majority of these patients do not know they are carrying the virus, thus serving as a source of infection for others. HCV, which can cause liver disease and liver cancer, is most often transmitted following large or repeated exposure to infected blood. Persons who use injection drugs; are HIV-positive; or are children of infected mothers have the highest risk of infection.

The discovery of canine hepatitis C virus (CHV) marks the first known instance of hepatitis-like infection in non-human primates and suggests that the virus may have been introduced into human populations through contact with dogs or some other related species more than 500 years ago, long after the domestication of dogs.

CHV belongs to a group of viruses known as hepaciviruses, which also includes GBV-B, a virus that causes hepatitis in tamarins, small monkeys from Central and South America. Among these viruses, HCV is most closely related to its canine counterpart, a finding that surprised first author Dr. Amit Kapoor, an investigator in the Center for Infection and Immunity and Assistant Professor of Path
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Contact: Daniela Hernandez
dfh2101@columbia.edu
310-991-2391
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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