Allergy Drug Limits Hepatitis C Activity

CCZ impairs the ability of the virus to enter human liver cells.

CCZ impairs the ability of the virus to enter human liver cells.

A common over-the-counter allergy medication may prove to be an effective treatment for hepatitis C virus (HCV).

In a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published April 8, 2015 in Science Translational Medicine, the allergy treatment chlorcyclizine HCl (CCZ) was found to limit HCV activity in infected mice.

"Although hepatitis C is curable, there is an unmet need for effective and affordable medication," lead author T. Jake Liang, MD, said in a press release. "CCZ is a promising candidate for part of a treatment regimen for this potentially life-threatening disease."

The results of the study indicated that CCZ can block early stage HCV infection by impairing the virus’ ability to enter human liver cells grafted in mice. The ability of CCZ to limit the virus was found to mirror commonly used HCV antiviral drugs without the toxic side effects.

"Using an innovative high-throughput screening process, we identified CCZ as a potent inhibitor of hepatitis C," study collaborator Anton Simeonov, PhD, said in a press release. "Identifying already approved drugs from the NCATS Pharmaceutical Collection may offer a faster route to potential discovery of treatments for all diseases."

Yet to be determined is how effective CCZ treatment for HCV will be in humans.

"People should not take CCZ to treat their hepatitis C until it has been demonstrated that CCZ can be used safely and effectively for that purpose," Dr. Liang said.

The results, however, leave hope that a less expensive treatment option for HCV will be available in the not too distant future.

"NIH research is vital to finding creative solutions for some of today's most serious public health issues," National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Director Griffin P. Rodgers, MD, said in a press release. "The CCZ medication may eventually provide an affordable alternative to costly options, especially in low-resource communities where hepatitis C infection is widespread."

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