A new drug has been developed to treat those with hepatitis C, according to research published online by Nature this week. The molecule, which stops virus particles from being made, greatly reduced viral load in a small sample of infected patients.
Daniel Lamarre and colleagues designed the molecule and organized the first proof-of-principle study with human patients. The drug, known as BILN 2061, blocks an enzyme that is needed by the virus for replication. Eight people infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) took four doses of the drug over 48 hours. Two days later virus levels had dropped by 100- to 1,000-fold. No side effects were reported. Longer trials are needed to assess how the antiviral activity holds up over time and whether drug resistance will become an issue.
Across the globe an estimated 170 million people are chronically infected with HCV. The disease causes chronic liver disease and can be fatal. Current therapies are often ineffective and may cause unpleasant side effects.
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