Hepatitis C vaccine trials promising – experts

The Rwandan medical fraternity is optimistic after an early clinical trial of a Hepatitis C vaccine showed “promising” results, according to researchers at UK’s Oxford University.

The Rwandan medical fraternity is optimistic after an early clinical trial of a Hepatitis C vaccine showed “promising” results, according to researchers at UK’s Oxford University.

On Thursday, results from the first human trials by Oxford University scientists indicated that a vaccine similar to the common cold virus is effective in fighting the infectious disease. However, the researchers note that the new vaccine is still in its early stages, and that a U.S. team plans to carry out a larger trial of the vaccine in at-risk groups.

The disease is caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Experts say the infection often results in an acute illness that can range in severity, from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong chronic condition that can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. It is transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person.

Oxford University senior researcher, Prof. Paul Klenerman, is quoted as saying: “We’ve found that it’s possible to prime large cellular immune responses against Hepatitis C that last for at least a year. The immune responses we’ve seen are exciting, and we are beginning the next stage of trials”.

“Clinical trials are good, if successful. We have to wait for five to 10 years before commercial products come out. Let’s wait and see,” said Dr. Ben Karenzi, head of the Rwanda Military Hospital.

Libérata Kayitesi, a member of the Lower Chamber’s Committee on Social Affairs said: “The news is good and we would be all lucky if the vaccine worked eventually. This disease is claiming lots of lives. We have tried to raise awareness, here in Parliament, so that all lawmakers can pass on the message to the population. A breakthrough such as this one is really encouraging.”

In July, specialists from King Faisal Hospital briefed MPs on advances in treatment options for Chronic Hepatitis C, a major cause of chronic liver disease in the country.

Under the invitation of the Rwanda Network of Parliamentarians for Population and Development (RPRPD), Dr. Emmanuel Musabeyezu, a physician and pulmonologist, explained how the virus is acquired, its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

The doctor explained that the most common risk factors for acquiring Hepatitis C is anything involving blood contact from person to person and even having unprotected sex with an infected person.

Rwandans can test themselves for the disease at the main referral hospitals in Kigali.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 130 and 170 million people are chronically infected with Hepatitis C virus, and more than 350,000 people die from related liver diseases each year.

james.karuhanga@newtimes.co.rw

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