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Eliminating hepatitis C could soon be possible through recent advances in treatment combined with an effective vaccine according to researchers at the 20th International Symposium of Hepatitis C Virus and Related Viruses (HCV 2013).
Given the introduction of new antiviral therapies for HCV, the conference has a dedicated Clinical Symposium with keynote presentations from world-leading scientists and clinicians who will present the latest findings on these therapies.
HCV affects around 200 million people worldwide and more than 350,000 people die from HCV-related liver diseases each year. In Australia it is estimated that more than 10,000 young people become newly infected with the virus each year, predominantly via injecting drug use.
Before the introduction of the new direct acting antiviral drugs, just 50 per cent of people with chronic HCV infection were successfully treated.
Head of Burnet Institute’s Centre for Population Health, Professor Margaret Hellard says until recently, eliminating the virus seemed unlikely.
“Advances in treatment and improved understanding of the effectiveness of harm reduction gives reason for optimism,” Professor Hellard said.
“Eliminating HCV in people who inject drugs is ambitious; however using a strategy that includes the scale-up of diagnosis, improved access to clean injecting equipment and opiate substitution therapy, combined with direct acting antiviral treatment, will considerably reduce HCV prevalence.
“The elimination of hepatitis C needs a sustained, focused and multipronged approach; the time to start is now.”
Progress in vaccine development for the treatment and prevention of HCV will be also major focus of HCV 2013.
Burnet Institute’s Associate Professor Heidi Drummer will speak about her breakthrough HCV vaccine – which could be used to prevent HCV infection.
“Hepatitis C has a great ability to change its structure and evade the immune response, this makes vaccine development challenging,” Associate Professor Drummer said.
“Development of a vaccine that protects against new infections as well as against reinfection in people who have cleared a previous infection is essential to make HCV eradication possible.”
Associate Professor Drummer will join other world-leading HCV researchers in presenting exciting new data on several new HCV vaccine strategies, including Oxford University’s Professor Paul Klenerman who has been involved with recent human clinical trials of an HCV vaccine that can be used to treat and prevent HCV.
CLICK HERE to read the Herald Sun’s story about Associate Professor Drummer’s vaccine breakthrough.