A new vaccine against hepatitis C has been tested for the first time in Switzerland, with a focus on patients diagnosed as HIV positive.
Matthias Hoffmann, in charge of trials at the Cantonal Hospital of St Gallen told swissinfo.ch that the first patient to be vaccinated there was only the third HIV-positive patient to be tested within a European study, known as PEACHI, organised by Oxford University.
He stressed the importance of targeting HIV+ patients, due to the “growing problem in all society of intravenous drug use, with an urgent need to avoid the primary infection [of Hepatitis C] in this target group”.
While over 200 patients have already been tested elsewhere in Europe within the EU programme, only three HIV+ patients have received the jab. The two other patients were vaccinated in Dublin, Ireland, prior to the Swiss trial.
Hoffmann said that “it would be years rather than months” before definitive results from the trials will be available.
The vaccine is being developed by pharmaceutical companies ReThera and GlaxoSmithKline.
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease caused by a virus which attacks the liver. According to official health figures, 0.7% to 1% of the Swiss population is infected by the disease, with the greatest spread being among intravenous drug users.