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The remarkable history of the hepatitis C virus


The infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an example of the translational research success. The reciprocal interactions between clinicians and scientists have allowed in 30 years the initiation of empirical treatments by interferon, the discovery of the virus, the development of serological and virological tools for diagnosis but also for prognosis (the non-invasive biochemical or morphological fibrosis tests, the predictors of the specific immune response including genetic IL28B polymorphisms). Finally, well-tolerated and effective treatments with oral antivirals inhibiting HCV non-structural viral proteins involved in viral replication have been marketed this last decade, allowing the cure of all infected subjects. HCV chronic infection, which is a public health issue, is a hepatic disease, which may lead to a cirrhosis and an hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) but also a systemic disease with extra-hepatic manifestations either associated with a cryoglobulinemic vasculitis or chronic inflammation. The HCV infection is the only chronic viral infection, which may be cured: the so-called sustained virologic response, defined by undetectable HCV RNA 12 weeks after the end of the treatment, significantly reduces the risk of morbidity and mortality associated with hepatic and extra-hepatic manifestations, which are mainly reversible. The history of HCV ends with the pangenotypic efficacy of the multiple combinations, easy to use for 8–12 weeks with one to three pills per day and little problems of tolerance. This explains the short 30 years from the virus discovery to the viral hepatitis elimination policy proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2016.

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Correspondence to Stanislas Pol or Sylvie Lagaye.

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SP has received consulting and lecturing fees from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Janssen, Gilead, MSD, Abbvie and grants from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead, Roche and MSD. The remaining author declares that she has no conflict of interest.

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Pol, S., Lagaye, S. The remarkable history of the hepatitis C virus. Genes Immun 20, 436–446 (2019).

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