Scientists report hepatitis drug boost

SCIENTISTS in Yorkshire have moved a step closer in developing drugs to block a potentially-deadly virus.

About 170 million people worldwide are estimated to have been infected with hepatitis C – which can go on to trigger severe liver disease.

About one person in five with chronic hepatitis C develops cirrhoisis of the liver and it is the cause of about half the country’s cases of liver cancer.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Currently, the disease is treated with immune system boosting drugs but the effects vary. The virus may be drug-resistant or only controlled for short periods.

Now researchers at Leeds University have published details of how two prototype drugs – p7 inhibitors – attack different parts of the hepatitis C virus, by targeting a protein that allows the virus to continue spreading.

The findings suggest that drugs could suppress the virus if used together with the latest generation of “direct acting” medications being developed against the illness.

Researcher Stephen Griffin, of Leeds School of Medicine, who led the work, said: “Hepatitis C has always been an extremely difficult condition to treat effectively because the virus evolves so quickly and develops resistance to drugs that are used to treat it.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“This new class of small molecule drugs, the p7 inhibitors, attack the virus directly. As we have discovered here, they each do so in quite a different way which allows us to combine their effects.

“By learning how the hepatitis C virus reacts to these molecules, we can design drugs that are likely to be more effective for longer.”

The work, published in the journal Hepatology, was funded by the UK Medical Research Council, the charity Yorkshire Cancer Research and the university’s biomedical and health research centre.