Viral Diseases

Hepatitis

Hepatitis infections caused by viruses are a major health problem worldwide. They cause severe direct disease symptoms, and are also correlated with development of liver cancer. One of the viruses that cause hepatitis-related cancer is the hepatitis D virus. This is a defective virus that can only exist in combination with Hepatitis B. Work at BPRC was responsible for the first genetic characterization of the Hepatitis D virus.

Hepatitis B is one of the most common and serious forms of hepatitis. Work at BPRC led directly to the development of the first safe Hepatitis B vaccine made from recombinant proteins. This vaccine has now been used world-wide and has protected millions of children and adults against infection, illness and death.

Hepatitis A is also a common disease. A combination vaccine to generate a wider spectrum of protection against both Hepatitis A and B was developed with the help of laboratory animal studies at the BPRC.

Hepatitis C is another serious form of hepatitis. In the past few years the BPRC has been closely involved in the development of a therapeutic (post-exposure) Hepatitis C vaccine. Clinical trials of this vaccine have recently been started.

BPRC also helped pioneer a genotypic method for to diagnose hepatitis infections caused by viruses other than Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. Industry has further developed this diagnostic process into a readily useable kit. This kit is now in widespread clinical use.

AIDS

Work at BPRC contributed substantially to the understanding that there is a clear relationship between virus load (the number of virus particles in the body) and the likelihood of developing AIDS. This finding has been applied in the clinic.

An HIV-1 vaccine, developed in collaboration with industry, is currently being tested in clinical trials.

The main immune defences against HIV/SIV infection have been characterised in non-human primates. This information has contributed to an improved understanding of the disease. This knowledge is essential in order to develop new vaccines and treatment approaches.

A concept combining therapeutic vaccination with anti-viral drug treatment has been developed and tested at BPRC. Promising results in monkey trials have led to clinical trials of the combination therapy.

New anti-viral drugs for the treatment of AIDS have been evaluated. A number of these medicines have, as a result, been brought into clinical use. Importantly the development of medicines showing serious unwanted side effects was stopped.

Research at BPRC has made a fundamental contribution to answering the important question of why chimpanzees do not develop AIDS, even though they can be infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS in people. A full understanding of why chimpanzees are resistant to AIDS will help develop new approaches to preventing human AIDS.

See also current BPRC research activities for AIDS / HIV.