Hepatitis C is the name given to a disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) that affects the liver. Many sufferers experience no symptoms, but can still spread the disease. Those who do have symptoms may experience tiredness, decreased appetite, nausea or vomiting, pain under the ribs, fever and pain in the joints. As the disease progresses liver scarring is the main complication and this can lead to liver failure or liver cancer. However, only 10-20% of hepatitis C suffers will develop liver scarring. Treatment for hepatitis C is available with a combination of two drugs, but it is not always effective. Hepatitis C is spread through contact with infected blood, sexual intercourse and, on occasion, from mother to baby.
Who discovered Hepatitis C?
The steps towards discovering the hepatitis C virus began in the mid-1970s, when Harvey J. Alter and his research team showed that many hepatitis cases were not due to the already known hepatitis A and B viruses. However, it wasn’t until 1987 that the identification of the virus and diagnostic tests were developed. These findings were confirmed in 1988 and the virus was named in 1989. The team credited with the discovery are Michael Houghton, Qui-Lim Choo and George Kuo from the Chiron Corporation, who worked in collaboration with Dr. D.W. Bradley from Centers for Disease Control. Research into the disease is ongoing in the hope of finding more effective treatments.