January 11th, 2013
The research involved 41 healthy patients who all showed strong immune system responses after being given the vaccine.
One of the researchers, Professor Paul Klenerman, described the results as “exciting” and said that the next stage of trials are now underway.
The World Health Organization believes that as many as 170 million people globally could be infected with the disease.
Today, hepatitis C is generally spread through blood-to-blood contact, and one of the most frequent causes of new infections is the shared use of syringes. While infection can be controlled with antiviral drugs, the researchers at Oxford say a vaccine “would be a major step forward.”
However, given the complexity of clinical drug research, it is likely to take many years to develop the vaccine for widespread use. “While we are hopeful, it could be a long road to any vaccine that protects people against hepatitis C,” said Prof Klenerman.
Charles Gore, chief executive of the Hepatitis C Trust, said: “This is very promising research. There has been rapid development in drugs to treat hepatitis C, but vaccine development has lagged behind. Yet, if we only treat existing infections, we will always be behind the curve. We badly need to improve prevention and this is an excellent step in that direction.”
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