News & AnalysisInfectious Diseases

First Specific Drugs Raise Hopes for Hepatitis C

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Science  08 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6026, pp. 159-160
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6026.159

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A virus that chronically infects 170 million people around the world is about to meet some new and formidable foes. Regulatory agencies in both the United States and Europe are soon expected to green-light the first two antiviral drugs specifically developed to treat chronic hepatitis C, a treacherous infection that can cause cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer, often decades after infection occurs. The drugs, both of which target a viral enzyme called the NS3-4A protease, promise to rid 70% to 80% of patients of their infection—a significant step up from the current, nonspecific therapy, which cures barely half of those treated. And they are just the first to emerge from a pipeline bursting with other candidates, which has galvanized the field and made hepatitis C the most prominent topic at the International Liver Congress last week.