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Virus Res. 2018 Mar 15;248:53-62. doi: 10.1016/j.virusres.2018.02.016. Epub 2018 Mar 2.

Critical challenges and emerging opportunities in hepatitis C virus research in an era of potent antiviral therapy: Considerations for scientists and funding agencies.

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Department of Infectious Diseases, Molecular Virology, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany; Division Virus-Associated Carcinogenesis, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany; German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF), Partner Sites Heidelberg and Hannover-Braunschweig, Germany. Electronic address:
Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, U1110, Institut de Recherche sur les Maladies Virales et Hépatiques, Strasbourg, France; Université de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire, Pôle Hépato-digestif, Nouvel Hôpital Civil, Strasbourg, France.
Copenhagen Hepatitis C Program (CO-HEP), Department of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Research Centre, Hvidovre Hospital and Department of Immunology and Microbiology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.
Departments of Medicine and Microbiology & Immunology, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
Department of Microbial Pathogenesis, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.
Department of Infectious Diseases, Molecular Virology, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany.
Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.
German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF), Partner Sites Heidelberg and Hannover-Braunschweig, Germany; Institute of Experimental Virology, TWINCORE, Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research (a joint venture between the Medical School Hannover (MHH) and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI)), Hannover, Germany.
Laboratory of Virology and Infectious Disease, Center for the Study of Hepatitis C, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA.
Center for Medicine, Department of Medicine II, Medical Center - University of Freiburg, Germany.
Department of Virology II, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Tokyo, Japan.


The development and clinical implementation of direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) has revolutionized the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. Infection with any hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype can now be eliminated in more than 95% of patients with short courses of all-oral, well-tolerated drugs, even in those with advanced liver disease and liver transplant recipients. DAAs have proven so successful that some now consider HCV amenable to eradication, and continued research on the virus of little remaining medical relevance. However, given 400,000 HCV-related deaths annually important challenges remain, including identifying those who are infected, providing access to treatment and reducing its costs. Moreover, HCV infection rarely induces sterilizing immunity, and those who have been cured with DAAs remain at risk for reinfection. Thus, it is very unlikely that global eradication and elimination of the cancer risk associated with HCV infection can be achieved without a vaccine, yet research in that direction receives little attention. Further, over the past two decades HCV research has spearheaded numerous fundamental discoveries in the fields of molecular and cell biology, immunology and microbiology. It will continue to do so, given the unique opportunities afforded by the reagents and knowledge base that have been generated in the development and clinical application of DAAs. Considering these critical challenges and new opportunities, we conclude that funding for HCV research must be sustained.


Direct acting antiviral therapy; HCV research funding; HCV vaccine; Immune reconstitution

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