1 Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute, Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E1, Canada.
Evidence for the existence of another hepatitis-causing pathogen, other than the known hepatitis A and B viruses, emerged in the mid-1970s. A frustrating search of 15 years was ended by the identification of the hepatitis C virus in 1989 using a recombinant DNA immunoscreening method. This discovery quickly led to blood tests that eliminated posttransfusion hepatitis C and could show the partial efficacy of type 1 interferon-based therapies. Subsequent knowledge of the viral replication cycle then led to the development of effective direct-acting antivirals targeting its serine protease, polymerase, and nonstructural protein 5A that resulted in the approval of orally available drug combinations that can cure patients within a few months with few side effects. Meanwhile, vaccine strategies have been shown to be feasible, and they are still required to effectively control this global epidemic.