New vaccine shows promising results

05 January 2012

Emerging_Infections_i Stock_Eraxion
© iStock/Eraxion

A new vaccine, which could offer lasting protection against the chronic liver disease hepatitis C, has shown promising results in a first clinical trial in humans. The vaccine uses a new approach which stimulates a part of the body’s immune system which was not used in previous attempts to develop a hepatitis C vaccine. The research is part of a project carried out by the Oxford Martin School’s Institute for Emerging Infections.

Results from the clinical trial showed that the vaccine generated immune responses similar to those seen in the minority of people who are naturally able to clear any infection with the hepatitis C virus. The researchers are hopeful that in time, this work could lead to a vaccine that protects those at risk from the disease or helps in treating those with hepatitis C infections.

‘We’ve found that it’s possible to prime large cellular immune responses against hepatitis C that last for at least a year,’ says Professor Paul Klenerman of the Institute for Emerging Infections, who has been leading the research.

‘The immune responses we’ve seen are exciting and we are beginning the next stage of trials. While we are hopeful, it could be a long road to any vaccine that protects people against hepatitis C,’ he adds.

The study is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. It was funded by the European Commission along with support from the UK Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, and the Oxford Martin School.

Hepatitis C is caused by a virus transmitted through the blood, with infection typically remaining hidden for many years. Many people do not know they are infected because they do not show any symptoms.

It is estimated that about 250,000 people are infected with hepatitis C in England and Wales, and the disease is now the leading reason in the West for liver transplants.

This research has been widely reported in the international press. A selection of articles follows:

Hepatitis C vaccine: Oxford researchers’ trial ‘promising’
BBC News online, Unattributed, 04/01/12

Hepatitis C Vaccine Breakthrough In New Trials
Sky News online, Lisa Dowd, 4/01/2012 [Includes video of broadcast package]

Cold clue to vaccine for hepatitis C
The Daily Mirror, p. 35, Mike Swain, 05/01/12

Common cold could help find hepatitis C vaccine
The Scotsman, 05/01/2012

Hepatitis C Vaccine Could Be Found In Cousin Of Common Cold
Huffington Post UK, 04/01/2012