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 Scientists a step closer to Hepatitis C vaccine
Update: 2011-08-06
European scientists have successfully tested in animals a vaccine for Hepatitis C, a debilitating viral disease that can cause liver failure and cancer, according to a study released this week.

Currently, there is no human vaccine for Hepatitis C, which is spread through contaminated blood and kills some 350,000 people worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organisation.

Between 130 and 170 million people are thought to be infected with chronic forms of the disease.

A team led by French researcher David Klatzmann of the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris used so-called "virus-like particles" to create the vaccine, which was tested on mice and monkeys.

Virus-like particles provoke an immune reaction, helping the body to develop resistance, but do not contain any genetic material that would allow a "virus" to multiply.

This technique has already been used in other vaccines, notably for the human papillomavirus, another cancer-causing agent.

The new vaccine, developed in partnership with French start-up Epixis, worked against several different variants of the Hepatitis C virus, offering hope that it would also beat back mutations as they occurred.

The next step will be to conduct human trials. The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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