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Hepatitis C Achilles Heel Found

Drugs Now In Pipeline May Shorten, Ease Hepatitis C Treatment

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"If a compound like this goes forward into clinical trials, it has the potential for dual activities and may work better than what's out there now," Johnson tells WebMD. "It might also allow people to use decreased doses of interferon. This finding opens new possibilities that are important for drug development. What it says for patients is that a hepatitis C protease inhibitor, as long as it is safe and everything else, could have multiple ways of getting rid of the virus. That is really the bottom line."

At least three drug companies are working on hepatitis C protease inhibitors. Farthest along appears to be BILN 2061 from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma. It's already being tested in humans. The Schering-Plough product is not yet ready for human tests, says Schering spokesman Robert Consalvo.

Gale's findings appear in the April 17 issue of the online journal Sciencexpress. Also appearing in the same issue is an article by Hiscott's lab, offering new insights into how viruses trigger a cells antiviral immune response. That finding may lead to drugs effective not only against hepatitis C, but all viruses.

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