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Researchers may have a vaccine for hepatitis C

06:01 PM PST on Monday, March 27, 2006


Hepatitis C has been called the silent epidemic. About 4 million Americans now live with it, and there's no cure. The disease is transmitted through blood and sexual contact.

Kathie Bryson contracted hepatitis through a needle she touched while working as a nurse.

"The first thing out of my mouth was, I didn't do anything wrong. I was terrified because I knew that hepatitis C was pretty much a killer," she said.

Kathie also developed liver cancer. After surgery and four months of chemotherapy, she's just happy to be alive.

"I kind of laugh that every day if I wake up, and I'm not feeling good, I know I'm still here. I say if I wake up one day and I feel great, then I'll know I've died," she said.

Hepatitis C is a contagious virus that travels through the bloodstream and infects the liver.

Now, researchers at St. Louis University are testing the first vaccine in humans to prevent hepatitis C.

"This is an infection that causes a very bad disease. If we can find something to prevent people from becoming infected, that would be a great thing," said Dr. Sharon Frey, an infectious disease specialist.

In the study, 60 patients received four different doses of the vaccine. All the patients produced antibodies that researchers believe could protect them from the virus.

"If a vaccine can develop those responses, hopefully then it will protect a person from becoming infected or developing disease," said Frey.

Kathie hopes it will.

"It would be incredible. It would be a blessing. I just hope that I live long enough to see it," she said.

So far, she's beaten the odds and hopes others will get a chance to do the same.


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