Study suggests cirrhosis and liver disease nearly inevitable for people with hep C
Nearly 80 percent of chronic hepatitis C sufferers who have the disease for several decades will develop cirrhosis or end-stage liver disease later in life, according to a study published today in the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Researchers found that it is highly likely that people who are infected with hepatitis C (HCV) for more than 60 years will develop cirrhosis--the highest rate of hepatitis C-associated cirrhosis reported to date.
Hepatitis C is a virus that affects the liver and is spread primarily by contact with blood and blood products in transfusions and among drug users who share needles. Other common routes of transmission are infants born to HCV-infected mothers, tattoos and body piercings and risky sexual behavior. Of those who are infected, more than 80 percent will be chronic carriers of the disease. HCV can cause long-term scarring of the liver and usually presents with mild and non-specific symptoms, if any. They include fatigue, nausea, poor appetite and muscle and joint pain. It is estimated that more than 4 million Americans are now infected with HCV (more than 170 million people worldwide) and nearly 10,000 Americans die from the disease each year.
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Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
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