Ever closer to a prophylactic vaccine for HCV.
Swadling L., Klenerman P., Barnes E.
INTRODUCTION: With 3 - 4 million new infections occurring annually, hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major global health problem. There is increasing evidence to suggest that HCV will be highly amenable to a vaccine approach, and despite advances in treatment, a vaccine remains the most cost-effective and realistic means to significantly reduce the worldwide mortality and morbidity associated with persistent HCV infection. AREAS COVERED: In this review we discuss immune responses to HCV during natural infection, and describe how they may inform vaccine design. We introduce the current candidate vaccines for HCV and compare how these fare against the expected requirements of an effective prophylactic HCV vaccine in relation to the breadth, functionality, magnitude and phenotype of the vaccine-induced immune response. EXPERT OPINION: Although the correlates of immune protection against HCV are not completely defined, we now have vaccine technologies capable of inducing HCV-specific adaptive immune responses to an order of magnitude that are associated with protection during natural infection. The challenge next is to i) establish well-characterised cohorts of people at risk of HCV infection for vaccine efficacy testing and ii) to better understand the correlates of protection in natural history studies. If these can be achieved, a vaccine against HCV appears a realistic goal.