Researcher John Law in the University of Alberta lab of Michael Houghton
Electron micrographs of hepatitis C virus purified from cell culture
Although the existence of hepatitis C had been postulated in the 1970s, it wasn’t until 1989 that a team led by Michael Houghton identified the virus. Often being asymptomatic, it is estimated between 130 – 170 million people worldwide are infected with the virus that can lead to scarring of the liver and cirrhosis. Although treatment with medication is available, it isn’t effective in all cases and between 20 to 30 percent of those infected with hepatitis C develop some form of liver disease. Now Houghton and a team at the University of Alberta have developed a vaccine from a single strain that is effective against all known strains of the disease.
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