How Does Hepatitis C Spread?


Trek Therapeutics pic

Trek Therapeutics

Robert Hindes, MD, has been engaged in clinical research in infectious diseases and virology for almost 3 decades. Starting with clinical, bench, and animal research during his fellowship at Harvard Medical School, Robert Hindes, MD, continued conducting research at Danbury Hospital, Bristol Myers Squibb, Pharmasset, and Gilead. He is currently based in Massachusetts, where he serves as the cofounder and chief medical officer of Trek Therapeutics.

Founded in 2014, Trek Therapeutics is a public benefit corporation that develops treatments for infectious diseases. Recently, the firm completed a Phase 2a randomized, double-blind trial investigating the combination of faldaprevir QD with TD-6450 QD plus ribavirin BID that achieved SVR4 in all subjects with genotype 4 HCV.

HCV, or hepatitis C virus, causes an infection of the liver that often leads to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. The condition, which currently affects more than 2.7 million people in the United States, spreads when HCV-infected blood enters the bloodstream of a healthy person. Typically, HCV is spread through sharing needles, medical procedures with unsterilized equipment, and through unprotected sex between men. The virus may also spread during heterosexual sex or when toothbrushes, nail clippers, or razors are shared.


Examining the Causes of Hepatitis C


Hepatitis C pic

Hepatitis C

Robert Hindes, MD, served as the group director of virology at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is based in Wallingford, Connecticut, prior to taking in his role as the chief medical officer of Trek Therapeutics. Focusing on the development of affordable hepatitis C (HCV) drugs that are accessible to the largest possible audience, Robert Hindes, MD, oversees the development of all clinical strategies employed by Trek Therapeutics.

A viral condition, HCV is transmitted when a person comes into contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of somebody who carries the infection. Blood, however, is the main transmitter, as even small traces of it are capable of passing on the infection. Some believe the virus is capable of surviving in blood outside of the human body for a number of weeks in areas that remain at room temperature.

The predominant cause of the infection is the sharing of needles by drug users; for instance, the NHS, the United Kingdom’s public health service, estimates the practice to be the cause of around 90 percent of infections in that country. Less common causes include unprotected sex, particularly amongst people who have other sexually transmitted infections such as genital sores or HIV. There is also the potential for HCV to be passed to others if items that come into contact with blood (such as tattoo equipment, needles, razors, and scissors) have not been properly sterilized before use.

There is also an estimated 5 percent chance that the infection can be passed from mother to child, though it is believed that this cannot occur through breastfeeding.

The Dangers Of Hepatitis C

Robert Hindes, MD, completed a fellowship in infectious diseases at Harvard Medical School, and received board certification in infectious diseases in 1986. As the chief medical officer at BeyondWest Pharmaceuticals, Robert Hindes, MD, works on new treatments for hepatitis C infection, with a focus on developing countries.

More than three quarters of patients who contract the hepatitis C virus (HCV) will go on to develop a chronic infection. Those who do develop a chronic infection are at a high risk for serious health complications.

The progression to cirrhosis and liver cancer is often associated with few clinical symptoms, and some patients are only diagnosed with hepatitis C after they present with the complications of end-stage liver disease or hepatic cell cancer (HCC). Individuals with decompensated cirrhosis often have ascites, upper gastrointestinal bleeding caused by varices from portal hypertension, hepatorenal syndrome and hepatic encephalopathy. In the U.S., deaths in individuals with chronic HCV are more likely to be caused by complications from decompensated cirrhosis than from HCC. The probability of an episode of clinical decompensation is approximately 5% 1 year from the diagnosis of cirrhosis, and increases to 30% at 10 years. The 5-year survival rate following a diagnosis of decompensated cirrhosis is about 50%. In addition to causing end-stage cirrhosis, chronic HCV infection is a major cause of HCC. Unlike complications of end-stage liver disease, HCC often occurs in individuals with earlier stages of cirrhosis, and may occasionally occur before cirrhosis develops.

Early diagnosis of HCV is key in preventing these serious, lifelong infections, but this is difficult because most infected individuals do not develop symptoms. For this reason, screening should be performed in anyone with abnormal liver enzymes.

Nucleotide Analogs Prove Effective at Treating Hepatitis C Virus

Over 3 million United States citizens are living with chronic hepatitis C. Hence, physicians specializing in infectious diseases and hepatology have been working toward a cure for the condition. Research physician Robert Hindes, MD, has been involved with clinical development of antiviral drugs that have resulted in breakthroughs in drug therapies for Hepatitis C.

This objective was the subject of a 2011 presentation by Robert Hindes, MD, regarding the use of nucleotide analogs in a new medicine known as GS-7977 (sofosbuvir). A nucleotide analog is an antiviral drug that is modified in such a way as to mimic the natural function of a nucleotide, which is a structural molecule in DNA. Unlike treatments for the hepatitis B virus, HIV, and herpes, results of clinical trials have demonstrated that with this kind of drug therapy, the hepatitis C virus is not just suppressed, but eradicated. The result is a steady reduction of the virus in the body until, optimally, it is no longer present.