Hepatitis C Virus or HCV affects the liver. During the early phase, there are mild to no symptoms of the contraction. When left unchecked, it can lead to a number of fatal medical conditions, including liver cirrhosis and liver failure.
As of 2015, about 2% of the world population i.e. 143 million people are infected with the HCV. Here are some important HCV stats from World Health Organization:
- 71 million people are living with chronic HIV
- Antiviral treatment for HCV works in 95% of the cases
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine available for Hepatitis C. Nonetheless, a chronic HCV infection can be cured in 95% of the cases by means of antiviral medications, primarily including sofosbuvir or simeprevir.
Sometime in the mid-70s, Harvey J. Alter and his research team demonstrated that most post-transfusion hepatitis cases at the time were neither due to hepatitis A or hepatitis B viruses. At that time, the unknown virus was called NANBH, a contraction of non-A, non-B hepatitis. No major development in the direction of identifying the virus was made in the following decade.
In 1987, George Kuo, Michael Houghton and Qui-Lim Choo used a novel molecular cloning approach in collaboration with Daniel W. Bradley for identifying the unknown organism and developing a diagnostic test. A year later, in 1988, the virus was confirmed by Harvey J. Alter by means of verifying its presence in a panel of NANBH specimens.
In April of 1989, the discovery of the hepatitis C virus, HCV, was published in the popular medical journal, Science. Following the discovery, diagnosis and antiviral treatment for hepatitis C improved verily. In 2000, Harvey J. Alter and Michael Houghton were honored for their immense contributions for identifying HCV.
In 2001, FDA approved pegylated interferon, an effective version of interferon. FDA approved a swift antibody test dubbed OraQuick in 2010. The test gives results in mere 20 minutes. This enhanced the HCV detection. In 2013, FDA approved of two new better HCV medications, namely Sofosbuvir and Simeprevir.
Hepatitis C can be acute or chronic. Acute infection may go away naturally or develop into a chronic infection.
Acute Infection – Out of all the HCV cases, merely 15% cases exhibit acute Hepatitis C symptoms that include:
- Decreased appetite
- Joint/Muscle Pain
- Weight Loss
The infection resolves naturally in 10-50% of cases of acute HCV cases.
Chronic Infection – Among all the patients that are exposed to HCV, 80% develop chronic infection. It is defined as the presence of detectable viral replication for at least 6 months. In most chronic cases, there aren’t any kind of symptoms during the early years of the infection.
In order to treat HCV, antiviral medications, like sofosbuvir and ribavirin, is used in line with Interferon. While antiviral medications helps in curbing HCV replication, Interferon boosts the immune system.
Undoubtedly, Hepatitis C has come a long way from being an unidentified, fatal infection to a treatable ailment. Now, more emphasis is on the development of better, effectual and quick treatments.