LA JOLLA, CA April 3, 2012 A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute has found antibodies that can prevent infection from widely differing strains of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in cell culture and animal models.
HCV's very high rate of mutation normally helps it to evade its host's immune system. The newly discovered antibodies, however, attach to sites on the viral envelope that seldom mutate. One of the new antibodies, AR4A, shows broader HCV neutralizing activity than any previously reported anti-HCV antibody.
"These antibodies attach to sites on the viral envelope that were previously unknown, but now represent promising targets for an HCV vaccine," said Mansun Law, an assistant professor at Scripps Research. Law is the senior author of the new report, which appears online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
An effective HCV vaccine is desperately needed. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the virus has established mostly silent infections in 130 to 170 million people worldwidenearly 3 percent of the human populationand spreads to 3 to 4 million new people annually. HCV principally infects liver cells, and is thought to cause chronic, often-unnoticed liver inflammation, which eventually can lead to serious liver ailments. The virus already is responsible for about a quarter of annual US cases of liver cirrhosis and primary liver cancer, and it is the leading cause of liver transplants. In some developing countries, HCV prevalence is extremely high; studies suggest that in Egypt, as many as 22 percent of the population is infectedapparently due to poor screening of blood products and past re-use of syringes. Even in developed countries, HCV infections represent a looming public health crisis. In the United States and Europe, up to 14 million people are now HCV-positive, and each year an estimated 150,000 people are newly infected.
The current leading
|Contact: Mika Ono|
Scripps Research Institute