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Hepatitis C Vaccine Expected in Five Years

July 20, 2021 • 9:16 am CDT
(Precision Vaccinations)

A protective vaccine against infection with hepatitis C could be in use within 5 years, says Professor Sir Michael Houghton, who co-won the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology and discovered the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in 1989.

Currently, there is not a U.S. FDA Approved vaccine to prevent HCV.

"While the advent of directly acting antivirals (DAAs) to cure hepatitis C has given us a huge weapon to turn the tide on this pandemic, there is no doubt that a vaccine is required to help the world reach its ambitious target of reducing new hepatitis C infections by 90% and mortality rates by 65% by 2030," explained Sir Michael in a press statement issued on July 11, 2021.

Sir Michael and colleagues at the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute are currently developing an adjuvanted recombinant vaccine, which is expected to induce the production of antibodies to multiple cross-neutralizing epitopes, making it harder for the virus to escape the humoral immune response.

This means many different antibodies are likely to be produced by this vaccine to prevent HCV infection, making it very hard for the virus to evade them by mutation and protecting the vaccine recipient from hepatitis C infection.

Sir Michael anticipates phase 1 trials in 2022 using different adjuvants followed by phase 2 human efficacy trials from 2023-2026, either in an at-risk population such as people who inject drugs or via human vaccine challenge trials.

Using Canada as an example, Sir Michael points out the huge cost savings a successful vaccine could generate.

It is estimated that treating people who inject drugs with DAAs over a decade would incur drug costs of around C$1 billion (US$0.8 billion), compared to $20 million (US$16 million) estimated for vaccine costs to protect the same population.

Up to 2 million new HCV infections occur every year around the world, with an estimated 70 million carriers of the virus globally, most of whom are not diagnosed, says the WHO website. The HCV is estimated to cause some 400,000 deaths annually addition, many infected with the virus go on to develop liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

On July 15, 2021, new guidelines were published from the WHO strongly recommending offering self-testing for hepatitis C virus as an additional approach to HCV testing services.