A Timeline of Hepatitis C
Scientists believe that the different subtypes of hepatitis C (HCV) originated around 200 years ago and that the six main genotypes of HCV have a common ancestor that dates back 400 years ago. But HCV likely evolved over hundreds of thousands of years before becoming the strains we see today. Source: Hepatitis C Support Project
Scientists discovered the antiviral properties of interferon, which is a naturally occurring substance. It works by disrupting viral replication. Three different types were identified, including alfa, beta and gamma. Source: Hepatitis C Support Project
After scientists developed blood tests to detect hepatitis A and hepatitis B, they found that many samples tested negative for both. These were classified as non-A, non-B hepatitis. Experts now believe that about 90 to 95 percent of those cases were actually hepatitis C. Source: Hepatitis C Support Project
This is the year investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Chiron Pharmaceuticals identified the hepatitis C virus. Daniel W. Bradley from the CDC and Michael Houghton from Chiron were among the scientists who discovered it. Source: Hepatitis C Support Project.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first alfa interferon to treat HCV. Throughout the 1990s more interferon drugs were approved to treat hepatitis C. Source: Hepatitis C Support Project
In 1990 blood banks began screening blood donors for HCV. But it wasn’t until 1992 that a blood test was perfected that eliminated HCV from the blood transfusion supply in the United States. Before that, blood transfusions were the leading cause of HCV transmission. Source: Hepatitis C Support Project
The FDA approved a combination treatment of interferon (Rebetron) and Ribavirin for the treatment of hepatitis C. Ribavirin was initially developed to treat HIV, but wasn't effective. Instead it had an effect on a family of viruses including HCV. When combined with interferon therapy, it provided a major breakthrough in hepatitis C treatment. Source: Hepatitis C Support Project
The first pegylated interferon was approved to treat HCV in this year. Pegylation is a process that binds certain compounds to the interferon molecule, making it less likely to be cleared from the bloodstream. This allowed higher concentrations of the drug to stay in the body a longer period of time, which helped suppress the virus. Source: Hepatitis C Support Project
The first hepatitis C virus (genotype 1) was replicated in a test tube by scientists at the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. It represented the end of the viral life cycle so another model was needed to show the beginning of the viral life cycle. Source: Hepatitis C Support Project
Scientists were able to infect a mouse model with a hepatitis C virus cell culture. This model dramatically increased knowledge of the hepatitis C virus. Source: Hepatitis C Support Project
The first HCV rapid antibody test was approved by the FDA. This test can quickly detect HCV antibodies in previously undiagnosed people.
The FDA approved a medicine called sofosbuvir (Sovaldi), which is a pill medicine that can be given with Ribavirin for 12 weeks without interferon. It has cure rates in excess of 90 percent for one strain of HCV called genotype 2.
New HCV guidelines were published to keep up with the introduction of new medications. Typically it takes six to 18 months to publish new treatment guidelines, but liver experts from the Infectious Disease Society of America and the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease worked together to publish recommendations online so doctors would know how to best use the new drugs.
2014 and beyond
Two combinations drugs are likely to be approved before the end of the year that will provide an interferon-free therapy for HCV genotype 1. One is a combination of Sovaldi with another antiviral medication called Ledipasvir. The combination of those two medicines in one pill may have between a 90 and 100 percent cure rate.