Early treatment is key to combating Hepatitis C virus - Researchers publish research results in on-line edition of Journal of Virology

    MONTREAL, Aug. 8 /CNW Telbec/ - Canadian researchers have shown that
patients who develop a rapid poly-functional immune response against hepatitis
C virus (HCV) can eliminate the virus rapidly without any treatment, according
to a new study published in the Journal of Virology.
    The investigation was led by Dr. Naglaa Shoukry and Dr. Julie Bruneau,
who affiliated to both the Research Centre of the Université de Montréal
Hospital Centre and the Université de Montréal, as well as researchers from
the Institut national de la santé et de la recherché scientifique (Montréal
branch) and Assiut University, Egypt. The study found that patients who could
not mount a rapid poly-functional immune response became persistently infected
and eventually lost any immune cells directed against HCV. What's more, the
research team found that when early treatment was administered within the
first months following an infection, patients developed a rapid
poly-functional immune response against HCV and eliminated the virus rapidly
without any further treatment.
    This new discovery of the mechanisms of viral eradication, according to
the research team, could contribute to the development of new treatments. In
North America alone, most new HCV infections occur among intravenous drug
users (IDUs), a vulnerable population that is often undiagnosed and untreated.
In the study, researchers followed a group of IDUs at high risk of HCV
infection before and immediately after exposure to HCV. Their findings clearly
show the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of HCV - particularly in
marginalized populations such as IDUs and aboriginal populations.
    HCV is transmitted through infected blood. Although a quarter of infected
individuals eradicate the infection spontaneously, the majority develop
persistent infection, a major cause of cirrhosis and cancer of the liver. The
only approved treatment for HCV is an anti-viral drug known as pegylated
interferon alpha. This drug is successful in only half of cases when
administered during chronic infection. Success rates among those treated early
after infection are significantly higher or around 90%.

    The study, published in the Journal of Virology, was funded by Canadian
Institutes of Health Research and the Fonds de la recherché en santé du
Québec. The study abstract is available online at:

    About Research Centre of Université de Montréal Hospital Centre Research
    Centre: chumtl.qc.ca/research-centre.fr.html
    About the Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montreal: chumtl.qc.ca
    About the Université de Montreal: umontreal.ca
    About INSERM: inserm.fr
    About the Canadian Institutes of Health Research:  cihr.irsc.gc.ca
    About the FRSQ : frsq.gouv.qc.ca

For further information:

For further information: Nathalie Forgue, Communications Advisor,
University of Montréal Hospital Centre, (514) 890-8000, ext. 14342, Pager:
(514) 801-5762; Andrew McColgan, Ministerial Liaison and Public Affairs,
Canadian Institutes of Health Research, (613) 946-0927,
amccolgan@cihr-irsc.gc.ca; Marielle Gascon-Barré, President director general
by interim, Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec, (514) 873-2114, ext.
229; Source: Communications Department, University of Montreal Hospital

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