Drug combo found successful in curing hepatitis C
Doctors say early diagnosis of condition still vital
The highly contagious liver disease, hepatitis C is the chief reason for liver transplantation in the United States. The majority of people are unaware that they have the condition - only learning of its existence in the later stages of the disease. Now - a combination of new and previously existing medications has now been found successful in a large percentage of people, but doctors still stress diagnosis and prevention.
"Sofosbuvir is an agent that acts directly against the hepatitis C virus itself. It interferes with one of the enzymes that's important for this virus to replicate itself," Fauci said.
In addition, patients also received rivavirin, an older drug used against hepatitis C. Taking both drugs for a period of time, between 50 and 70 percent of the patients were cured. (Test subjects did not have the hepatitis C virus in their blood.) Treatment didn't include interferon, which is a drug usually given by injection to combat the disease.
Interferon can cause serious effects. The combination of drugs given in the trial had minimal side effects, and none of the patients dropped out.
Catching hepatitis early prevents liver cancer and liver failure as well as improves the odds of a cure. Fauci says aggressive screening is as important as finding accessible drugs.
"The idea of getting these people diagnosed and, if they need it, to get them into a treatment regimen is a very important public health imperative," he said.
At least 150 million people in the world have the chronic liver disease, according to the World Health Organization. While there's currently no vaccine to prevent it, researchers have found a combination of drugs that cures many difficult cases.
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