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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
CANADA: Progress on Hepatitis C Vaccine

January 23, 2006
Canadian Press (01.10.06) - Monday, January 23, 2006

In a new study, University of Saskatchewan researchers report progress toward finding a vaccine that could prevent hepatitis C and treat those already infected.

The research team took dendritic cells from mice, exposed the cells to a protein in the hepatitis C virus, and treated them with a chemical that provokes their immune response. When returned to the body, the activated cells can "teach" other cells to activate the response, said Dr. Sylvia van Drunen Littel-van den Hurk, an author of the study and a senior research scientist with the Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Organization at the University of Saskatchewan.

Because mice are not susceptible to hepatitis C, the researchers used another virus to simulate a hepatitis C infection. Viral replication in the vaccinated mice was found to be 100,000-fold less than in the nonvaccinated mice. Reducing the viral load in patients already infected would represent great progress, said van den Hurk. "You will reduce the chances these people get cirrhosis and ultimately would need a liver transplant," she said.

Ten different proteins are used in the vaccine. The team plans to test five or six proteins as potential vaccines, both individually and in combination, to see which can best reduce or eliminate the virus.

The lab work necessary prior to human testing will take at least five years, van den Hurk said.

The full report, "Dendritic Cells Pulsed with Hepatitis C Virus NS3 Protein Induce Immune Responses and Protection from Infection with Recombinant Vaccinia Virus Expressing NS3," was published in the Journal of General Virology (2006;87:1-10).