A Bloomberg News report indicates that biotech company Okairos is working on a vaccine for hepatitis C, an infection that now kills more Americans than HIV/AIDS.
The vaccine would be a first of its kind -- not working like traditional vaccines that rely on the body's immune system to form an antibody response, but instead a "gene-based vaccine designed to stimulate the body's immune system to prevent hepatitis C from taking hold," according to Chief Operating Officer Tom Woiwode, who was quoted in the article.
Thankfully, vaccines exist for hepatitis A and B, but so far, none for type C, so if this new vaccine works, it would be welcome news to everyone in the hepatitis community.
A report published in a February issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine sheds light on a scary new fact: Hep B and Hep C are now responsible for more deaths than AIDS/HIV.
A public health program that addresses living with hepatitis C -- similar to the ones available for AIDS patients -- is sorely needed, said the study's co-author, Dr. John W. Ward in The New York Times:
"The declines in H.I.V. reflect the accomplishments in building a public health response to the epidemic that improved screening and provided means of access to effective treatment," he said in the Times.
With Thanksgiving approaching--and then the onslaught of more food, drink, family and indulgence that follows--you might be in need of a strategy for keeping yourself on track. To simplify your needs, consult these eight straightforward tips. You might even consider printing out this list and re-reading it when you need some guidance.
The 4 million Americans affected by Hepatitis C may have some good news coming to them today: Vertex Pharmaceuticals' experimental drug, telaprevir, has performed even better than expected in clinical trials.
Three quarters of patients in the trial who got 12 weeks of the drug were found to have no trace of the virus in their blood for 24 weeks following treatment. This is considered a sustained virulogic response and the closest thing to a cure that currently exists.
"The community hopes that if telaprevir is approved by the F.D.A. that it will be accessible and affordable to everyone," Lorren Sandt, chairwoman of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, told the New York Times. As of now, the drug is expected to cost tens of thousands of dollars for a course of treatment.
Your immune system is a collection of organs and cells that work together to defend your body against harmful bacteria and viruses. One of the most fascinating abilities of a properly functioning immune system is that, while defending against dangerous pathogens, it can determine between what is supposed to be in the body and what is foreign and should be attacked. For people infected with a hepatitis virus, your immune system should be working to rid the virus from your body.
Here's a short tour of the immune system, stopping to look at--and learn about--each organ along the way.
Since this is a hepatitis site, naturally, there is a focus on the liver. However, the liver is very interconnected with other body systems--particularly the digestive system. If you've ever wondered what your liver does, and for that matter, what the other organs of the digestive system do, here's your chance to take a picture by picture tour.
For this tour, I've found nine images that feature some part of the digestive system and described each one. Ready? Enter the gallery.
Your body can tell you if something is wrong, but you first need to understand its language. Unfortunately, this is a language you can't learn from Rosetta Stone, Berlitz or Pimsleur. This is the language of signs and symptoms, but, in the case of hepatitis C, often there's not much of either.
It's a startling fact, but according to some studies, up to 70% of people with hepatitis C infection won't have any symptoms--especially in the earliest stages of infection. This means that most people with acute hepatitis C won't even realize they're infected. While checking out hepatitis symptoms is a popular Internet search, people's time would be better spent learning about how hepatitis C spreads and what risk factors they might have that increases their chances of exposure.
By now, some people might be focusing on the remaining 30%. What are their symptoms? Well, this won't be much help either. The symptoms of acute hepatitis C can be very generalized. In the early stages of infection, symptoms are usually vague: fatigue, muscle and joint aches, loss of appetite and headaches. Together these are known as flu-like symptoms, and for most people, these don't scream "Hey, you might have hepatitis!"
That leaves us with jaundice, the classic symptom of hepatitis, and maybe its best known one. However, here again, many people with acute viral hepatitis never experience it. If it is present, it doesn't mean it's viral hepatitis (other diseases can cause jaundice); besides, it might be possible to have very mild jaundice and not even realize it!
This lack of symptoms has given hepatitis C the nickname of silent killer. It's estimated that approximately 19,000 people in the United States become infected with hepatitis C every year. Of these, as many as 85% will become chronically infected, and some of these people won't know they're infected until some unrelated doctor's visit. While chronic hepatitis C isn't a death sentence, it definitely increases the risk of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer. So, learn about hepatitis C risk factors before you're infected and make sure you take prevention seriously. And, one more thing. Spread the word about hepatitis C to your friends. Hepatitis C might be silent, but you don't need to be.
There's more to hepatitis than hepatitis C. To many people, it's not worth the time to sort out the ABCs of hepatitis soup: if you have hepatitis then you must have hepatitis C. However, just like all facial tissues aren't Kleenex and all adhesive bandages aren't Band-Aides, all hepatitis isn't hepatitis C. There are different types of hepatitis and it turns out that inflammation of the liver has many causes.
Maybe the cause of this confusion comes from viral hepatitis and its use of letters to name the different viruses. There are five viruses, each named after the first five letters of the alphabet. It's tough enough to keep these straight especially since these viruses are alike in many ways. However, there are striking differences. For example hepatitis A and E are spread through infected feces. Hepatitis B, C and D are spread through infected blood and possibly other body fluids.
Many people know about the risks of infected body fluids. This might explain why hepatitis is associated with being infectious, but it's not true for all types. For example, autoimmune hepatitis, which is caused by the immune system attacking the liver, can't be stopped with all the prevention in the world because genetics are probably invovled. Likewise, drinking large amounts of alcohol can lead to the same liver inflammation that viruses can cause, but no matter how close you sit to someone knocking back one shot after another, you won't catch alcoholic hepatitis.
Finally, consider drug-induced hepatitis. This is liver inflammation caused by too many drugs or other toxins overwhelming the liver. Sometimes the effects of overdose can be reversed, but sometimes, the assault is too great and liver damage results. And, yet, there's not much stigma attached to Tylenol.
There are others to mention, but the point is to realize that hepatitis has many causes, not just viral; and of the viral causes, there are more than just hepatitis C. For a good summary, check out Types of Hepatitis: Understanding the Different Causes.
A new study suggests that certain types of needles can allow the hepatitis C virus to stay viable for a longer period of time. Researchers found that the virus can survive for nine weeks in tuberculin syringes that have detachable needles. This is far longer than in insulin syringes with attached needles.
The study, conducted by scientists from the Yale School of Medicine, may lead to new approaches in hepatitis C prevention. More information on this research is available in the official press release.
Can you get hepatitis from having sex? Yes, you can; however, there are significant differences in how each of the five viruses are spread and their risk of exposure during sex.
Some viruses are more likely to spread from sexual contact than others, so make sure you're prepared. Of course, the best preparation is vaccination and practicing safe sex (and other prevention strategies). It's all explained in What You Should Know about the Spread of Hepatitis from Sex.