A recent research cited in an academic journal titled Nature Medicine suggests that the virus that causes hepatitis C protects itself by blocking signals that call up immune defenses in liver cells. “The finding helps explain why many patients fail certain drug treatments, and should help develop more effective alternate treatment protocols,” said Ram Savan, the study`s corresponding author. Hepatitis C virus, the most common cause of chronic hepatitis and the leading cause of liver cancer, is primarily spread through contact with infected blood. Each year, more than 30,000 Americans become infected and as many as 85 percent develop life-long chronic infections.Of these patients, about one in 10 will eventually develop cirrhosis and liver cancer. Lead author of the study Abigail Jarret showed that hepatitis C virus sabotages the antiviral defenses of liver cells by blunting the effect of key immune proteins called interferons. When cells become infected, they release interferons. These in turn spur hundreds of genes that generate virus-fighting proteins within the cell. Interferons can even provoke cells to self-destruct to prevent the virus from propagating. One of these interferons, called interferon-alpha, has been used for many years to treat chronic hepatitis C virus infections, either alone or in concert with an antiviral called ribavirin. These treatments helped many patients get rid of the virus, but the treatment fails to cure more than 60 percent of patients. Newer, more effective drugs with fewer side effects have now largely replaced interferon-based therapies.

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