In a ground-breaking study, researchers at Princetown University have managed to wipe out existing Hepatitis C infection, and managed to prevent new Hepatitis C infections, albeit in mice. This could lead to new preventative strategies and treatment options for this deadly


Hepatitis C is a viral infection usually passed on through contact with infected blood. It can also be passed on through sexual activity. Worldwide over 170 million people are infected, many of them unaware, as the virus can be present for decades before people show signs of infection. It causes chronic liver disease and damage with some people developing liver failure or liver cancer and it can cause death. There are numerous subtypes and this has made efforts to develop an effective vaccine difficult. The virus also mutates, which complicates matters further. Although there are now treatments available that can treat the infection successfully in most people, the search for an effective prevention strategy goes on. There is so far no vaccine available to prevent Hepatitis C infection.

The researchers have come up with a novel strategy. It is known that some people clear the virus themselves. They therefore specifically looked at antibodies in these people, so called broadly neutralising antibodies. These antibodies target a part of the virus that doesn’t mutate. Rather than just injecting these antibodies into infected mice, which can be problematic as the antibodies can degenerate before the do their work, they instead administered a genetic instruction set, that, once in the cell, developed the three antibodies required, which target the portion of the virus that mutates.

They found that this technique worked really well. The mice injected developed high and sustained levels of antibodies which protected the mice from infection when later exposed to the virus. One injections effect lasted for several months.

They decided to also try this approach in already infected mice and found that their viral levels dropped significantly, in some instances the levels dropped below the level of detection.

This is very encouraging results which will now need to be replicated in human trials. Hopefully it will prove to be as successful in humans and lead to an effective prevention strategy.