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New drug may give hope to those at risk for hepatitis C

Category: Infectious Diseases

A new drug, which has been shown to prevent hepatitis C virus from replicating in a recent study of primates, may be of use to patients who have tested positive for the virus.

SPC3649, the new drug, targets an RNA molecule in the liver that hepatitis C uses to replicate, researchers told Health Day News.

The study, published in the December 3 online edition of Science, examined the levels of hepatitis C antibodies in the livers and bloodstreams of chimpanzees. Researchers found that by inhibiting the RNA molecule, the highest dose of SPC3649 reduced virus levels in the animals by 350-fold.

"It is a conceptually new approach," the study's lead author Robert Lanford of the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research told the news source. "Instead of directly targeting the virus, the drug targeted a liver-specific molecule necessary for replication."

Background information of the study revealed that about 170 million people are infected with hepatitis C worldwide, most commonly encountering the virus through contact with tainted blood.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 70 percent and 80 percent of individuals with the virus initially have no symptoms, however more than 60 percent eventually develop chronic liver disease.

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