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Scripps Florida scientists develop a process to disrupt hepatitis C virion production
Date:3/21/2008

HCV is a significant human pathogen, infecting more than three percent of the worlds population. The incidence of infection in the United States has been estimated to be as high as 4 million cases. In the March issue of the journal PLoS Pathogens, Timothy Tellinghuisen, an assistant professor in the Department of Infectology at Scripps Florida, and his colleagues describe how they used mutations of the viral NS5A phosphoprotein to disrupt virus particle production at an early stage of assembly. NS5A has long been proposed as a regulator of events in the HCV life cycle, but exactly how it orchestrates these events has been unclear.

The interesting thing about this mutant is that while it triggers totally normal RNA replication, it causes severe defects in the output of infectious virusin fact, it releases no infectious virus that we can detect, says Tellinghuisen. And though this discovery isnt a cure for HCV, it is an important research tool that stops the assembly pathway. Total disruption of the replication process would be a cure for the disease, he adds, and thats the teams long-term goal.

HCV infection is roughly five to seven times more prevalent than HIV, underscoring the pandemic nature of HCV infection. HCV occurs when blood from an infected person enters the body of someone who is not infected. Most new HCV infections are due to illegal drug injections and sharing needles. However, those who had blood transfusions prior to blood donor screening in 1991, healthcare workers who had needle stick accidents, and hemodialysis patients are also at risk for developing HCV infection. The virus predominantly infects the liver, and following many decades of virus reproduction serious disease such as hepatitis (liver inflammation), cirrhosis (liver scarring), and carcinoma (liver cancer) develop. Ultimately, HCV infection destroys the liver, resulting in death. Attempts at curing HCV infections with drug therapy have been only marginally succes
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Contact: Keith McKeown
kmckeown@scrpps.edu
858-784-8134
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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