Findings about WWII-Era Spread of Hepatitis C Could Inform Future Prevention Efforts

The breakneck pace of clinical research means that, by necessity, there is little time to assess the past. But research published earlier this year in the Journal of Virology on the origins of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) shows that such examination is not a morbid trip down memory lane, but rather can deliver key insights into current prevention efforts.   

The study, from researchers at the University of Glasgow, dates the beginnings of HCV to the 1940s and says it most likely arrived through the mass treatment of soldiers in field hospitals across the country during WWII. Under circumstances of war, hastily organized and overwhelmed care units meant that HCV was easily spread easily between soldiers as their injuries were treated.   

Using statistical analysis to examine the transmission dynamics, the researchers say, can help provide a basis for identifying HCV transmission hotspots. They posit that a more comprehensive understanding of exactly how hepatitis C virus is transmitted during times of significant spread could facilitate public health initiatives to reduce the prevalence of HCV in people who contract it through intravenous drug use.

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