February 16, 2012
A Canadian research team says it is closer to developing a vaccine that could be effective against all major strains of hepatitis C virus. The progress toward a broadly effective HCV vaccine was unexpected, said Michael Houghton, a researcher at the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology at the University of Alberta.
Vaccines are made with certain antibody strains, and they tend to work only against those strains. There are six major strains of HCV and hundreds more subtypes. New data show the vaccine candidate, which is made from one HCV strain, produces antibodies that can neutralize all HCV types, Houghton said. He presented his findings Wednesday during the Canada Excellence Research Chairs Summit in Vancouver.
"I think that's great news for our efforts to develop a vaccine for hepatitis C," Houghton said. "I've been working on the vaccine for 15 years; for so many years the field felt that antibodies would be very restricted in their neutralizing ability, that you could only neutralize the same strain that the vaccine was derived from."
Preliminary tests suggest the success rates for blocking different HCV strains ranged from 40 percent to 100 percent, said John Law, Houghton's research partner.
If the vaccine is proven safe and effective in large-scale human trials, it could take five to seven years to reach the market. The vaccine may also help those already infected with HCV, Houghton said. Research is needed to determine the vaccine's potential to boost the effectiveness of the new, more effective HCV antiviral therapies, he added.