Over 300 delegates from 27 countries are this week (October 8 – 11) attending HCV2018 – the 25th International Symposium on Hepatitis C Virus and Related Viruses. Researchers, clinicians and public health experts will come together to discuss the latest in research and patient care in Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, Zika, HIV and Dengue.
Hepatitis C (HCV) is a virus that infects and damages the liver. It can cause inflammation (swelling) and fibrosis (scarring) of the liver, which in some people can progress to cause serious liver damage, such as cirrhosis. Hepatitis C is often referred to as a silent disease, as symptoms can take several years to develop and people do not realise that they have the disease. These infected individuals are at risk of developing serious complications if they remain undiagnosed and untreated.
Hepatitis C is, however, now becoming a curable disease due to recent advances in treatment, which can offer greater than 95% chance of cure. The goal for researchers and clinicians working in viral research is to enhance the quality of treatment and care for all infected patients further by working towards complete disease eradication on a global scale.
HCV2018 will focus on the latest scientific developments, national programme delivery, and national and international registry outcomes. Additionally, for the first time at this symposium, a key public outreach session will connect Irish healthcare providers with patients and foster discussion between the groups about the latest developments in HCV research and treatment.
HCV2018 is partnered by the Irish Hepatitis C Outcomes Research Network (ICORN) and directed by an organising committee comprised of researchers from Trinity College Dublin, St. James’s Hospital, the University of Leeds and the University of Glasgow.
Immunology Assistant Professor at Trinity, Nigel Stevenson – also a member of ICORN – has been instrumental in bringing HCV2018 to Dublin.
Professor Stevenson said:
“It is our privilege to host the 25th meeting of the HCV and Related viruses Symposium here in Dublin. The Silver Anniversary meeting is an opportunity to celebrate the journey, from discovery to cure, researchers and health care providers have made with HCV.”
“The outstanding research that has developed a cure for HCV, should now be harnessed in the development of a vaccine. Indeed, we can also learn from the success of HCV research in the development of new therapeutics against related viruses including ZIKA and Dengue.”
This year, the symposium highlights include:
- Public Outreach Session:A novel component to HCV2018 will be the ICORN Public Outreach Session, a new initiative to provide Irish healthcare providers and patients the opportunity to hear about and discuss developments in HCV research. The story of the Hepatitis C virus has two main aspects: on the one hand, as a hidden enemy HCV has been a leading cause of liver disease and devastation to millions of lives across the globe; on the other hand, HCV research has led to a triumph for science, from discovering the virus, comprehensively describing its biology and then finding a cure. This Public Outreach Session seeks to describe and celebrate such the successes and focus on how they have impacted Irish patients, but the challenges still faced in identifying and treating people with HCV will also be discussed. The programme can be downloaded at: https://hcv2018.com/programme/Public-Outreach-Session
- Global Challenges: Elimination of HCV: Challenges and Opportunities: Over recent years our world has been threatened by numerous viral outbreaks. Therefore, a keynote address will come from Director of the HIV and Global Hepatitis Programme at the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Gottfried Hirnschall. He will speak about the “Elimination of HCV: Challenges and Opportunities”.
- Systems Biology and Bioinformatic Analysis of Viral Infection:Cutting-edge research in viral infection requires the integration of both systems biology and bioinformatic analysis. This session will discuss computational analysis and the use of “big-data”, which will link important host and virus data to clinical patient responses. Advances in computer technology, genetic screening and understanding of viral infection now enables researchers to make major advances against viral infection and disease.
- Patient Registries & Treatment Outcomes: Although new therapies for HCV are effective, specific problems, such as treatment failure and drug resistance, need to be solved. Therefore, a session on Patient Registries & Treatment Outcomes will bring together world-leading experts from Ireland, France and the UK, to present key data of their international patient registries and focus international efforts for the treatment and prevention of HCV and other major viral infections. This session will be co-chaired by Professor Aiden McCormick, a member of ICORN and Clinical Lead of Ireland’s National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme.
Immunology Assistant Professor, Nigel Stevenson (Trinity), Professor of Comparative Immunology, Cliona O’Farrelly (Trinity), and Clinical Professor of Infectious Diseases, Colm Bergin (Trinity and St. James’s Hospital) are among the experts carrying out HCV and related virus research here. They are all members of ICORN.
Professor Stevenson’s research focuses on finding cures for several viruses including HIV, RSV MERS and SARS. He has discovered mechanisms through which HCV, RSV and HIV target our natural immunity and is using this knowledge to develop novel therapeutics that clear viral infection. Professor Stevenson’s research has also discovered processes through which HCV suppresses the immune system, which his group aims to harness in treatment for autoimmune disorders. These discoveries will be presented at the HCV2018 conference.
By working with patients who were exposed to HCV but not infected, as well as those who were exposed and infected, Professor O’Farrelly aims to compare any biological differences and identify aspects of our immune system that naturally protect us from HCV.
Professor Bergin cares for cohorts of HCV and HCV:HIV infected patients in St. James’s Hospital. His clinical research is partnered with several Trinity researchers and aims to unravel the immune evasion strategies of HCV and HIV and move us towards better treatment and care options.
For more information and a complete programme see: https://www.hcv2018.com/