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Let’s Thank the Innovators this World Hepatitis Day

July 28, 2015
In the United States alone there are 200,000 to 3 million cases of Hepatitis C diagnosed every year, worldwide there are around 150-200 million cases. This challenge, however, did not inhibit innovative scientists and doctors from fighting to find a cure. That’s why today, World Hepatitis Day, we honor the innovators fighting this virus now, and the innovators who laid out the groundwork for finding potential cures in the past.

Hepatitis C is a viral disease that is caused by the hepatitis C virus. An infection with this virus causes the immune system to attack healthy cells of the liver. Hepatitis C is spread when infected blood enters another’s bloodstream. Many people who have hepatitis C experience the following symptoms:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or skin)

  • Poor appetite

  • Fatigue

  • Abdominal pain

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Dark urine

  • Clay colored stools

  • Joint pain

Some people will have few or even no symptoms of infection. - Prevention and You

The symptoms, however, are not the pinnacle of the problem. Almost 85 percent of people who acquire this virus develop chronic illnesses: nearly 70 percent of patients develop liver disease, 5-20% have cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, and up to 5 percent may develop liver cancer. The Hepatitis C virus is the leading reason for patients to have liver transplants. In the year of 2013, 701,000 deaths occurred due to liver cancer and cirrhosis from Hepatitis C.

In the 1970’s NIH Chief Doctor Harvey J. Alter was the first to be able to describe the Hepatitis C virus as non-A non-B hepatitis when he found that post blood transfusion hepatitis cases were not caused by the A or B viruses. It wasn’t until 1989 that Alter, with help from Chiron Corporation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was able to confirm the specimens to be Hepatitis C. Since then there have been significant improvements with diagnosis, prevention and even treatments.

As of now 40-80% of infected persons with chronic infections can be cured thanks to scientific breakthroughs of the 21st century.

The goal of HCV treatment is to cure the virus, which can be done with a combination of drugs. The specific meds used and the duration of treatment depend on a number of factors, including HCV genotype (genetic structure of the virus), viral load, past treatment experience, degree of liver damage, ability to tolerate the prescribed treatment, and whether the person is waiting for a liver transplant or is a transplant recipient. In some cases, HCV treatment may be limited by your health insurance plan or drug formulary. -