Researchers find a new virus linked to Hepatitis C, which is certainly not good!

Millions of people in the world depend on life saving blood transfusions for many illnesses. This blood transfusion can easily help save their lives and give them a new hope to live. But with blood being available only through donations, it becomes imperative to get as much as possible and store it for use.

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But a new research has threatened this life saving technique of blood transfusion, thanks to the discovery of a virus that infects blood with a dangerous and life threatening condition known as Hepatitis C. Furthermore, this new virus is transferrable through blood to blood contact, making it extremely dangerous and rendering the process of blood transfusion risky.

Here is some more information about the new virus and its association with Hepatitis C.

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1 What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a condition that severely affects the liver and is caused by the Hep C virus or HCV. Infection caused by this virus can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, which causes liver failure, liver cancer or esophageal or gastric complications.

HCV is mainly spread via blood to blood transfusions. This can happen by intravenous drug use, improperly sterilized medical needles, having sexual intercourse with a person who is affected with the HCV or by simple blood transfusions using blood infected with the disease.

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Around 150-200 million people are affected by Hep C virus all around the world and the virus only affects humans and chimpanzees.

What is Hepatitis C?

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2 Symptoms and treatments

Hepatitis C symptoms range from loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, muscle and joint pains to onset of jaundice, all indicating depleting liver function. The frightening thing is that these symptoms raise their head in decades in maximum people infected with the disease.

Hepatitis C can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Hepatitis C treatments are usually carried out by giving oral drugs like Harvoni that cures the disease in 8-12 weeks and patient have to take one pill daily.

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But in severe cases of cirrhosis of liver, the liver gets damaged beyond repair using drugs and a surgery has to be performed to carry out a liver transplant.

Symptoms and treatments

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3 New virus linked to Hep C

Pharma Company Abbott and University of California San Francisco (UCSF) recently published a research identifying a new human virus, called human pegivirus 2 (HPgV-2) and they also proved that it was found in the blood of patients who suffered from Hepatitis C (HCV).

The researched identified eight complete strains of HPgV-2, which is the complete genetic makeup of the virus. It is the first time that someone has done such an identification. The infection caused by this blood borne virus is very closely associated with Hepatitis C, but the research doesn’t confirm whether the virus causes Hepatitis C or not.

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This is the second pegivirus to be discovered till date, the other being the human pegivirus (HPgV).

New virus linked to Hep C

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4 Further information

The investigation was started when a 70 year old patient suffering from HCV caused by years of drug use and many blood transfusions to treat sickle cell anemia passed away in 2011 after multiple organ failure.

The team discovered this new virus using a technique known as next generation sequencing, which allows millions of genetic sequences from sample to be read in parallel. After researching 4,200 other samples, which were high risk for HCV and HIV, 11 further new cases were identified by the team.

The lead investigator of the research John Hackett Jr. of the UCSF-Abbott Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center said that they have indeed found an association with hepatitis C. He added, “Whether this indicates something about the route of transmission, or whether the virus persists more when HCV is present, currently we have no idea. But I wouldn’t rule out that we will find it in other settings.”

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Further information

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Hackett added that the team is not sure whether the virus is pathogenic and causes Hepatitis C. The study has now given one more solid reason as to why extra safety precautions are needed to be taken in blood banks.

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