The transmission of the virus that causes hepatitis C has been well-documented, but this disease still remains a large mystery. This liver disease is quite tiny, even for a virus as it is only 50 nanometers in diameter. But there’s more to this disease and not everyone knows the kind of threat it poses.
Hepatitis C is a virus that mutates often. This means once the infection started, it will create different variations of itself in the body. The mutation will usually be different from the parent virus and this is why the immune system finds it difficult to recognize them. But the University of Adelaide researchers have discovered something useful in the treatment.
The Role of a Genes Family
The researchers found that some genes may be able to stop the hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection that occurs in the liver. According to the findings, which can be found published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, these genes produce a protective form of immune response to the HCV. The researchers discovered the following during their tests:
- Antiviral proteins known as the IFITM proteins in the body can produce a natural immune response.
- The natural response from our body’s immunity can help block the entry of the virus, so that it cannot affect the cell.
- This new discovery improves the understanding about the HCV infection as well as how it enters the body. This can be used to provide new direction when it comes to creating or developing new treatments that aim to strengthen this particular natural response of the body – or at least generate mimics that will target the HCV.
It is crucial that HCV infection is checked and treated fast as this can lead to liver cancer and other chronic diseases. The IFITM proteins come in three forms: IFITM1, IFITM2, and IFITM3. All of which have shown that they have antiviral action that can suppress a variety of viruses, including hepatitis C virus.
Does This Mean You Can Be Immune to Hepatitis C?
Currently, there are about six genotypes of HCV and there are also several subtypes as the genotype mutates. The hepatitis C virus therefore has many forms and types, which is why it is difficult for scientists to create a vaccine that can stop the virus. Even today, there is no vaccine for preventing HCV. Many infected people (about 25%) can clear the virus naturally and spontaneously during the first six months known as the acute phase. This doesn’t mean you are immune to the virus.
With the help of the study mentioned above, the IFITM proteins may soon be enhanced or replicated, so that the virus can be prevented from entering our system.