Strategies and Prospects for Vaccination Against the Hepatitis C Viruses
In the USA, it has been shown that much of the hepatitis C virus (HCV)-associated disease burden arose from transmission through recreational drug use in which contaminated needles or syringes (or possibly cocaine straws; CONRY-CANTILENA et al. 1996) are shared (ALTER 1993). Currently, roughly 30,000 newly acquired acute HCV infections occur annually in the USA, most of which have intravenous drug use as the risk factor (ALTER 1993). However, in the remaining cases, multiple sexual partners remains an identified risk factor as does any activity subjecting the individual to exposure to contaminated blood (e.g. health-care workers, dialysis patients, organ recipients etc.; ALTER 1993). Therefore, while a prophylactic HCV vaccine would probably be used in high-risk groups initially, there would be a case for implementing universal vaccination of children (as in the case for the HBV vaccine) in order to prevent infection associated with adult activities. While there are similarities in the epidemiology of HCV between the USA and other developed countries, it appears that many developing countries suffer from a huge incidence of HCV infection due to past use of nondisposable injection needles/syringes in medical practices as well as cultural practices involving blood transfer. In these situations, public health measures and education programs are of paramount importance.
KeywordsVirus Core Protein
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