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You are here Research > Groups > Comparative Immunology > Projects > Liver Immunology: Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C

People are exposed to viruses, such as colds and flu, all the time but only a small number of people actually become infected. Understanding why some people seem to be naturally protected can help us design new ways to combat viral infection.

Irish women who were exposed to hepatitis C virus (HCV)-contaminated Anti-D in the late 1970’s and early 1990’s are critical to our studies of natural protection to viral infection. Hundreds of Irish women were exposed to HCV-contaminated Anti-D but never showed any sign of infection. We think they have ‘super’ immune systems that protected them from HCV – and may actually be still protecting them from all sorts of other viral infections.

We are now planning to embark on a study targeting all women who were exposed to HCV-contaminated Anti-D between the years of 1977 and 1979. This study aims to explore the reasons why some women were naturally protected from HCV and show no signs of infection. We believe these women may hold the key to fighting off this serious liver disease as well as other viral infections.

Further details on this study are available in our Frequently Asked Questions document download here (PDF, 284KB). If you are interested in getting in touch about this study please leave us a message by phone or e-mail with your contact details and we will be in touch shortly.

Phone: 087 7913600

Team Members

Cliona O'Farrelly photo

This project is led by Cliona O’Farrelly, Ph.D., FTCD, Professor of Comparative Immunology at Trinity College Dublin.

Team members working on this project include:

  • Dr Mark Robinson, Postdoctoral Research Fellow
  • Dr Lena Fischer, Postdoctoral Research Fellow
  • Margaret Needham, Research Associate


SFI logo

The project is supported by 5 year funding from Science Foundation Ireland - ‘Is Natural Resistance to Hepatitis C in an Irish Cohort Associated with JAK/STAT Resistance to HCV Targeting? Towards New Anti-Viral Strategies’ [Investigator Award 12/IA/1667].

Previous studies involving women exposed to HCV-contaminated Anti-D:

Hepatitis C virus targets the interferon-α JAK/STAT pathway by promoting proteasomal degradation in immune cells and hepatocytes. (2013) Stevenson NJ, Bourke NM, Ryan EJ, Binder M, Fanning L, Johnston JA, Hegarty JE, Long A, O'Farrelly C. FEBS Lett. 21;587(10):1571-8.

Chronic hepatitis C infection blocks the ability of dendritic cells to secrete IFN-α and stimulate T-cell proliferation. (2011) Ryan EJ, Stevenson NJ, Hegarty JE, O'Farrelly C. J Viral Hepat. 2011 Dec;18(12):840-51.

Innate immune genes synergize to predict increased risk of chronic disease in hepatitis C virus infection. (2011) Dring MM, Morrison MH, McSharry BP, Guinan KJ, Hagan R; Irish HCV Research Consortium, O'Farrelly C, Gardiner CM. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 108(14):5736-41.