A vaccine against hepatitis C may become available within seven years now that researchers have found out how to make it effective against different strains of the virus.
Researcher Michael Houghton told the 11th International Symposium on Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease in Sydney, Australia, that a key obstacle has been cleared in the development of the vaccine.
Houghton said studies using chimpanzees show the vaccine can protect against different strains of the virus and not just against homogenous ones. This is important, he added, because the virus can repeatedly mutate and escape the body's immune response.
"(The virus) is not only present in many different forms around the world already, but in any one infected patient you regularly get mutations appearing in just one individual," Dr Houghton told the Australian newspaper.
Houghton's team recently obtained U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to begin a phase-1 trail involving the vaccine to show it is safe and elicits an immune response in humans.
Houghton expressed the hope that a host of new drugs would be available by 2010 to cure most hepatitis C patients as well as a vaccine to prevent new infection.
Other sources: The Australian