Can We Eliminate Hepatitis C?


WHO and CDC have laid out some ambitious goals for the treatment of hepatitis C, and HCV co-discoverer and vaccine developer Michael Houghton, PhD, offers some insights and commentary on whether he feels it is realistic to consider the eradication of this stubborn and subtle virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) updated their hepatitis C clinical treatment guidance and said they have a global goal of reaching 90% testing and 80% treatment by 2030. Just three years ago only 21% of the 58 million persons with chronic HCV had actually been diagnosed, and 13% treated, according to WHO.

In their discussion, WHO acknowledged they are making inroads with HCV testing and treatment, but are still far below optimal levels. The WHO has made some recommendations to increase both.

And although these statistics seems rather disturbing there are ongoing efforts being made on the aforementioned global level with WHO as well as in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also updated its clinical guidance.

CDC has set up its Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) 2025 Strategic Plan. Within this plan they set out to achieve four major goals by 2025.

The goals are:

  • Reduce new viral hepatitis infections
  • Reduce viral hepatitis-related morbidity and mortality
  • Reduce viral hepatitis-related disparities
  • Establish comprehensive national viral hepatitis surveillance for public health action

Michael Houghton, PhD, Li ka Shing professor and holder of the Canada Excellence in Research chair (CERC) in Virology within the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology at the University of Alberta, is intimately involved in HCV research. He won the Nobel Prize for being a co-discoverer of the virus. For the last several years he and a team of researchers have been working to develop a HCV vaccine. They have created an investigational vaccine that Houghton predicts will go into clinical trials next year. In the first part of our interview with Houghton he spoke about the work in discovering the virus and their subsequent vaccine.

Houghton has been working on the science portion of it, but sees the value of public education as being an equal part of helping to reduce HCV. “…We can educate people, especially young people, about the risks to their livers from intravenous drug use, sharing needles and syringes—that’s a huge risk factor for hep C and HIV,” Houghton explained.

Houghton is a board member for the Liver Health Initiative (LHI). This organization is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting liver health education and disease prevention. Houghton along with the LHI are working together in trying to bring the science and the education along.

In this second installment of the interview, Houghton talks about how these aforementioned goals can be worked on as well as the use of antivirals in patients who get reinfected with a different strain of HCV.

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