Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have developed a laboratory technique that allows hepatitis C drugs to be tested for effectiveness on a particular individual before they are prescribed. It will also help to monitor whether and when the virus becomes resistant to drugs and provide the means to evaluate the effectiveness of switching to other antiviral medicines.
Hepatitis C virus affects around 170 million people worldwide and is spread by blood to blood contact. It is a strictly human disease and at the moment no vaccine is available. Although the infection generally occurs with few or no immediate symptoms, long term carriers are at high risk of both liver disease and liver cancer. Only one anti-viral treatment is currently available, which is effective in only half of cases and often with serious side effects such as severe fatigue and depression.
The team, led by Professor Peter Simmonds (Professor of Virology), grew versions of all six strains of the hepatitis C virus and used them to infect liver cells. The scientists then tested a range of drugs on the infected cells and analysed each drug’s effectiveness on each strain of the virus. They also monitored each strain to identify any signs of drug resistance.
Ingrid Imhof, Researcher at the University’s Centre for Infectious Diseases confirms: “This new system will make it easier to select in advance the best treatment option for each individual patient, saving them from ineffective treatments with potentially serious side effects.”
The research is published in the Journal of Virology and has been funded by the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council).
MEDICA.de; Quelle: University of Edinburgh