Immunotherapy for HCV infection: Next steps
With more than 170 million individuals currently infected, HCV is a global pandemic, effecting approximately 3% of the entire world's population. HCV infection is a growing infectious disease pandemic with approximately 3-4 million new cases reported each year. Due to the persistent nature of the virus, 70-90% of infected individuals will develop chronic infection, which can lead to progressive liver disease including cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Current standard treatment with a combination of IFN-alpha and ribavirin has improved the prognosis for many HCV sufferers; however, infection is very difficult to treat successfully and the protocol for treatment is neither simple, well tolerated nor economically favorable. Standard treatment can cost an average of US$22,000, and depending on genotype, as few as 42% of treated individuals will clear the infection. This collection of treatment issues combined with new concepts in immune therapy serve to underscore an urgent need for the development of improved immunotherapies, such as novel interferons, and support the possible development of therapeutic vaccines for the treatment of chronic HCV infection.
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