Recently, scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center announced an amazing new breakthrough: A new drug trial has been found to cure hepatitis C in 90% of patients in only a matter of weeks. This is amazing news, as there is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C, and nearly 40 to 50 percent of these infections persist despite current treatment. Moreover, current treatments can take up to 48 weeks (which to amounts to about a year’s worth of injections), which is a rather long time to deal with this disease, especially for those who do not have strong immune systems. Additionally, many individuals decide to forgo treatment as it is such a lengthy process.
If left untreated, or if treatment is unsuccessful, hepatitis C may cause cirrhosis of the liver, which can cause liver failure, liver cancer, or other life-threatening aliments. Currently, an estimated 150–200 million people are infected with hepatitis C worldwide.
Two studies were carried out in order to test the new treatment, one was conducted over 12 weeks and one over 24 weeks. After 12 weeks, 191 of 208 patients no longer had hepatitis C. For the 24 week study, 165 out of 172 patients (96 percent of infected individuals) were cured. Furthermore, all of the patients had genotype 1 hepatitis C infections as well as liver cirrhosis, which indicates the virus was advanced.
Lead researcher, Dr Fred Poordad was ecstatic with the results, stating, “It is fantastic. I am so excited for the patients. There is finally hope for their future.” He added that the drug worked by targeting the protein that makes hepatitis C and stopping it from replicating. However, since this is such a recent development, it is unclear if the probability of cancer dropped in the long term, if cirrhosis was reversed, or progression to total liver failure slowed. Still, extinguishing the disease is a huge leap forward, and is bodes especially well for individuals who recently acquired this disease.