Belgian biotech firm Innogenetics is developing a hepatitis C vaccine that may be able to halt or reverse liver damage in people infected with the disease. The vaccine is designed to treat people already infected with hepatitis C; it would not prevent people from becoming infected with the virus.
The vaccine was tested on 24 individuals who had been infected with hepatitis C for an average of 19 years. The patients were given five injections of the vaccine every three weeks. After six months, the patients received an additional six injections. Liver biopsies were taken before and after the treatment, and researchers found that the vaccine appeared to prevent scarring and inflammation in the liver from progressing in most patients. The nine patients who had the strongest response to the vaccine experienced an improvement in the condition of their liver.
The vaccine does not appear to alter HCV viral load, and researchers say that this may indicate that although viral load could reveal the effectiveness of treatments that prevent viral replication, it "might not be a true indicator of how serious a disease is."