Hepatitis C Virus: 30 Years after Its Discovery

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2019 Dec 2;9(12):a037069. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a037069.


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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Epidemics / prevention & control
  • Hepacivirus / drug effects
  • Hepacivirus / genetics*
  • Hepacivirus / physiology*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / drug therapy
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / virology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Life Cycle Stages
  • Viral Hepatitis Vaccines / immunology


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Viral Hepatitis Vaccines