University of Alberta virologist awarded Nobel Prize for discovering hepatitis C says proper funding needed to curb global epidemics

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After finding the virus, Houghton said it took an additional two to three years to develop a test to protect the blood supply. While cures are currently available with few side effects, Houghton said the disease continues to kill up to 400,000 people a year and a vaccine is still needed.

“We’ve worked out that over the next decade, it’s going to cost around one billion, billion not million, billion dollars to treat the new Hep C carriers with drugs,” said Houghton. “Our vaccine, that can be made at the U of A, can stop that transmission, can prevent transmission of those high-risk groups for around a million at most.”

Houghton said there are a variety of diseases, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, that can be treated with cheap drugs but continue to cause epidemics around the world.

He hopes funding can be made available to apply basic and transitional knowledge of treatable diseases towards other illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.

Houghton was awarded the world-renowned prize amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The U of A virologist is currently working on a vaccine to help treat the novel coronavirus. He said COVID-19, the illness the virus causes, has highlighted the need to be better prepared to face infectious viruses in the future.

“It will come and probably will be just as dangerous and severe as COVID,” said Houghton.

In Canada specifically, Houghton said COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of improving manufacturing needs.

dshort@postmedia.com 

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