Targeted multi-drug treatments for hepatitis C patients that could stop the virus in its tracks have come a step closer, thanks to researchers at the University of Leeds, UK.
The study by Dr Stephen Griffin and colleagues, published in the journal Hepatology, reveals how two prototype small molecule drugs, known as p7 inhibitors, can each attack different parts of the hepatitis C virus. Their findings suggest that p7 inhibitors could be a powerful way of suppressing hepatitis C, when used together with the latest generation of 'direct-acting' drugs.
More than 170 million people - or 3% of the world's population - are infected with the hepatitis C virus. The virus causes severe liver disease and is a leading cause of liver-related deaths, organ transplants and liver cancer.
At the moment, patients are typically treated with PEGylated interferon alpha (IFN) and ribavirin (Rib) - drugs that work by boosting the patient's immune system. However, the effects of these drugs can depend on the individual patient's genetic make-up. To make matters worse, hepatitis C is often resistant to the therapy and fails to suppress the virus for long enough. The treatment is also expensive and can trigger unpleasant side effects. Many patients stop taking the drugs or do not take them when they should.
To address this, researchers are looking at new classes of drugs that work in a different way to either IFN or Rib and target the virus directly. The aim is to find groups of these 'direct-acting' drugs that each attack a different target, making it much, much harder for the virus to fight back.
University of Leeds researchers are focusing on drugs that target the p7 ion channel - a protein made by hepatitis C that allows the virus to continue spreading. In previous studies, Dr Griffin and colleagues worked out how the p7 ion channel could be blocked by certain types of small molecule, stopping the hepatitis C virus in its tr
|Contact: Paula Gould|
University of Leeds