Hepatitis C is an infectious disease of the liver that can cause miserable symptoms including fatigue, lack of appetite, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Caused by a virus, hepatitis C affects about 200 million people worldwide. In the U.S. alone, one to two percent of the population is infected. Not only can this infectious disease cause scarring of the liver, cirrhosis, and eventually liver failure, but a significant number of people with hepatitis C also develop sometimes fatal liver disease or cancer.
Mainstream medicine uses two drugs, usually prescribed together, to treat hepatitis C: interferon and ribavirin. Unfortunately, the side effects to this combination are often so horrendous (ranging from severe fatigue, constant flu-type symptoms and nausea to birth defects) that a lot of hepatitis C sufferers can't stick with the therapy. What's more, for those who do manage to keep taking the interferon/ribavirin treatment, only about half get a positive response.
But a new study just released shows that nature seems to be able to do what Big Pharma can't -- kill the virus without damaging cells in the body. Scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) have discovered that two plant-derived bioflavonoids, catechin and naringenin, display powerful antiviral activity on tissue culture infected with hepatitis C.
Samuel Wheeler French Jr., MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UCLA and researcher at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, presented the findings in an American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) symposium on "Pathobiology of Liver Injury and Fibrosis" at the national Experimental Biology 2011 conference, which is currently underway in Washington, D.C.
A liver pathologist, Dr. Wheeler previously found that another plant-derived bioflavonoid, quercetin used by many people as a nutritional supplement, can help stop production of the hepatitis C virus without any cell toxicity.
Dr. French and his research team's next step is to test catechin and naringenin on patients with a Phase I clinical trial.
"We now have several new compounds we can test to see if they reduce virus infection," Dr. French said in a press statement. "The positive thing about this family of compounds is that they are non-toxic, and can be taken at high doses. Bioflavonoids represent a very promising therapy with very few side effects that could help millions of people."
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