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Hcv: The Hepatitis C Virus Essay

926 words - 4 pages

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. There are currently five known viruses that cause can hepatitis (Microbiology, 10e). The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person; however, it is now more commonly spread among IV drug users that share needles. Healthcare workers are also at risk for contracting HCV, but with standard precautions, the risk is low. “Prior to 1992, some people acquired the HCV infection from transfusions of blood or blood products. Since 1992, all blood products have been screened for HCV, and cases of HCV due to blood transfusion now are extremely rare. HCV can be passed from mother to unborn child. Approximately 4 out of every 100 infants born to HCV-positive mothers become infected with the virus. A small number of cases are transmitted through sexual intercourse; however, the risk of transmission of HCV from an infected individual to a non-infected spouse or sexual partner without the use of condoms over a lifetime has been estimated to be between 1% and 4%. There have also been some outbreaks of HCV when instruments exposed to blood have been re-used without appropriate disinfection.” (Microbiology, 10e)
The HCV virus measures about 50 nm in diameter; it is classified as a separate genus (Hepacivirus) within the Flaviviridae family. It is the virus that causes Hepatitis C. This family of viruses all has ribonucleic acid (RNA) as their genetic material. “All hepatitis C viruses have an outer coat or envelope and contain enzymes and proteins that allow the virus to reproduce within the cells of the body, in this case, liver cells.” There are at least six strains of the hepatitis C virus, and they all have this structure but have different genotypes. These differences do have their consequences: although different strains have not been proven to differ greatly in their virulence or pathogenicity, different genotypes vary in how they respond to interferon/ribavirin combination therapy ( Genotype 1 is the most common form of HCV. Even within a single genotype there may be some slight variations. “Genotyping is important to guide treatment because some viral genotypes respond better to therapy than others. The genetic diversity of HCV is one reason that it has been difficult to develop an effective vaccine since the vaccine must protect against all genotypes.” (WHO, 2011)
Although we are well aware of the mode of transmission, the hepatitis C virus itself remains a mystery. The genome of HCV is extremely mutable. Because HCV is an RNA virus and does not have adequate proofreading ability as it replicates, virions infecting humans undergo evolution with time, giving rise to the notion that HCV persists as a collection of virus quasispecies. Because it is constantly mutating, HCV is able to escape detection and elimination its human host. HCV undergoes quick mutation in a hypervariable region of the genome coding for the envelope proteins...

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