General Overview on Hepatitis C
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Hepatitis is a liver inflammation that is caused by a virus or a toxin. All lobule of the liver are affected by hepato cellular necrosis which is usually patchy or diffuse. There are about five viral agents that cause viral hepatitis to be precise A, B, C, D and E. This disease bears a high degree of commonness and importance worldwide with the number of people suffering from it ranging in millions. This paper is only going to tackle Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C was discovered in the year 1988, and it bears the greatest responsibility as far as transfusion-associated hepatitis is concerned. Before its discovery, it could neither be classified as hepatitis A nor B, and it was thereby categorized as non-A, non-B hepatitis. In 71-84% of this transfusion-related type, its antibodies (anti- HCV) have since been detected. Consequently, the extensive blood samples testing for the virus ought to eradicate close to 80 percent of the transfusion-associated non-A, non-B hepatitis (Kilgore, 1991).
Since its discovery, its significance has enormously increased with an estimated 1% worldwide prevalence. North America has a rate of 1- 1.6% while that of North Africa is about 10- 14%. Providentially, evidence has shown that the new infections rate has gone down by tenfold in the last ten years (Achord, 134).
More serious illness can be caused by the virus which causes liver inflammation, and which is primarily spread by the intravenous contact with blood of a person who is infected. (Armstrong 720). Despite acutely attacking the liver, it is almost impossible to eliminate this disease spontaneously. At its recognition, it actually tends to possess a characteristic of being mild. In a tangible number of patients, it causes cirrhosis when it persists. Further, it predisposes to the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (Achord, 134).
Health workers are usually at a high risk of getting infected because they are highly exposed to carrier body fluids (and blood). Infection can result with the first time exposure to Hepatitis C, but it's not easily transmitted as hepatitis B (7%-30%); nonetheless, the transmission of hepatitis C is higher than HIV (0.3%) (Dillman 98). Activities that could render one at risk of infection include use of illegal drugs through injection, transplants of body organs (incase blood contained HCV), exposure to products of blood, body piercing using shared instruments, etc.
Several patients are asymptomatic, particularly in persistent hepatitis C. Nonspecific anorexia, malaise and fatigue are frequent, occasionally with nondescript upper abdominal discomfort and low-grade fever. Jaundice is variable and is habitually lacking (Kilgore 200).
The main mode of transmission is usually injection of drugs using shared needles. However, there exists an infinitesimal chance of transmission through sexual intercourse. Infected mothers are also likely to transmit the virus to their infants though this rarely happens.
As it has been noted above, Hepatitis C is quite a problematic disease. It makes one continue suffering for a better part of life because of the way it attacks the immune system of the body. However, health researchers have been endlessly working towards finding a way of curbing this disease and apparently, there has been a recent discovery on the treatment of Hepatitis C.
Consequently, new technologies have been deduced to curb the rampant effect of the disease. In fact, it is one of the rampant chronic diseases in the US. 20% of HCV patients develop cirrhosis. This occurs in the first 10 to 20 years. Chronic Hepatitis cause liver failure and it account most liver transplants in US. Between 20 to 40 years of the disease some individuals develop liver cancer.
Discovery on the Treatment of Hepatitis
For a considerably long time now, doctors have been using a two-drug characteristic treatment on Hepatitis C. According to a recent research, the effectiveness of this treatment has been enormously improved due to the additional of boceprevir, a newly discovered drug. This by far exceeds the usual standard therapy in terms of effectiveness.
Ribavirin and pegin interferon are two antiviral, which doctors have been using to treat hepatitis but when combined with boseprevir, the rate of response is tremendously improved. However, this new drug has not yet been approved.
The studies that led to the discovery of this new drug were funded by Merk, who also manufactured it. The researchers noted that there was an enormous improvement in the responsiveness of the patients who had not been treated previously when the three drugs were administered together. This was a major breakthrough in the records of their findings.
The discovery of the PCR technique has also hampered treatment of HCV. PCR is a technique used to amplify specific region of a DNA strand. Thus, it becomes easier to identify the presence of viruses in serum. HCV is diagnosed when serum amino transferase are elevated, and anti hepatitis C virus is present in the serum. Presence of HCV RNA in serum confirms the diagnoses. (Armstrong 714).
He picked 1,097 people for the purposes of the study, and they were distributed into three groups randomly. All of them had not received treatment for the disease earlier, and the number of the black ones was 159. Ribavirin and peginterferon drugs were used to treat all of them. One group had additional 24 weeks boceprevir treatment after a period of four weeks. There was also an additional 44 weeks treatment with placebo for the second group. Lastly, all the three types of drugs were administered to the third group for a 44 weeks period.
Among non-black patients, 40 percent achieved a sustained response to standard care. The researchers also noted that, for those who received boceprevir, a good 68 percent responded quite positively. 23 percent of the black patients responded quite positively to the standard care but for those who had boceprevir addition, the number was 53 percent.
Anemia was one of the most serious common side effects observed but with a higher number on those who were treated with the three drugs. In a different study, patients were categorized into three groups just as it had been done earlier. 66 percent of those who received the three drugs showed a sustained response while only 21 percent of the other groups responded positively.
There was a substantial advance observed on the administration of the drug boceprevir towards treating hepatitis C. This is a major step towards dealing with this dangerous disease and we can only hope that it’s going to receive the necessary approval sooner than later.