All over the world, an estimated 130 million to 150 million individuals suffer from Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, while 15 million people are diagnosed with full-blown Hepatitis C.

HCV patients are mostly treated with direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). However, due to the emergence of resistant DAA treatments, treating HCV patients remains extremely challenging, said Dr. Johannes Vermehren of Goethe University of Frankfurt.

Now, an anti-viral treatment combination may potentially eradicate HCV in a matter of six to 12 weeks, a new study has revealed.

Drawing from a large Hepatitis C DAA-resistant database in Europe, Dr. Vermehren and his colleagues examined records of 3,500 patients with failure to DAAs. They included patients who were given interferon-free treatments.

In October 2014, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the treatment of the Harvoni pill -- a combination of the drugs ledipasvir and sofosbuvir -- among HCV patients, but the cost of the treatment is equal to $1,125 per day or about $94,500 for 12 weeks.

With this staggering amount, scientists said they wanted to assess whether shortening the treatment period, and thus reducing costs, would be effective in eradicating HCV.

Researchers found that administering the Harvoni pill -- which is manufactured by Gilead Sciences -- over the course of six weeks, would help eradicate HCV in patients after a 12-week follow-up.

In the end, the combination of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir has proven to be an almost-universal cure. Study senior author Professor Heiner Wedemeyer said shorter durations does not hinder the efficacy of the treatment.

The results of the study suggest that with the amount of DAA treatments available, the right combination must be chosen for the right patients in order to remove the infection from the body.

Meanwhile, Professor Frank Tacke, governing board member of the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL), said the findings of the study open up cost-effective and short treatment options that could halt the spread of HCV.

He hopes the findings could be extended, validated and turned into the foundation to further improve clinical practice.

The findings of the study were presented on April 16 at the International Liver Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

Photo: Steven Depolo | Flickr

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