Researchers have for the first time mapped the
global distribution of hepatitis C strains, creating a crucial resource
in the fight to eradicate it.
An estimated 185 million people are infected with
the hepatitis C virus (HCV) worldwide. A significant number of those
who become infected will go on to develop liver cirrhosis or liver
cancer, and up to 500,000 people die each year from liver diseases
related to the virus.
Hepatitis C can be cured, and a number of
new, dramatically more affordable drug therapies with minimal side
effects are set to become available over the next decade. With efforts
to create a vaccine also showing promise, the prospect of eradicating
the disease is now within sight.
However, the virus has six common
strains, or genotypes, which respond differently to different
treatments and vaccines. Knowing which strains are common in which areas
is essential for planning eradication campaigns.