The largest population study of hepatitis C in Africa has found three new strains of the virus circulating in the general population in sub-Saharan Africa. The research from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research and collaborators suggested that certain antiviral drugs currently used in the West may not be as effective against the new strains and that clinical trials of patients in sub-Saharan Africa are urgently needed to assess optimal treatment strategies in this region.
Published in the Journal Hepatology, the discovery of the new strains could inform hepatitis C treatment and vaccine development worldwide, and assist the World Health Organisation’s aim of eliminating hepatitis C globally.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is transmitted mainly by needles and exposure to blood products. Infection can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer, and nearly 400,000 people die from hepatitis C each year. Globally, an estimated 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C infection, 10 million of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa and there is no current vaccine.