The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is known to mutate to avoid recognition by antibodies, neutralizing molecules of the host’s immune system. Surprisingly, researchers found that these mutations can occur in genes unrelated to the antibody binding site in the virus.

The results are based on 113 HCV strains from 27 patients, and were reported in a study titled “Extra-epitopic hepatitis C virus polymorphisms confer resistance to broadly neutralizing antibodies by modulating binding to scavenger receptor B1,” published in the journal PloS Pathogens.

A new era of oral, direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapies is leading to HCV eradication in most treated patients. However, viral control is still a challenge due to DDA-resistant HCV variants. Importantly, about half of infected individuals don’t have symptoms, and if they are not treated, could transmit the virus to others.

A preventive vaccine is needed to protect those at risk from future infection by HCV.

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