Scientists at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (aiims), New Delhi, have developed the first genetically-engineered clone of the hepatitis E virus.
"Such an achievement will not only help in the development of a vaccine but also make it possible to identify a drug that can inhibit this virus," says S K Panda, professor of pathology at AIIMS. The institute has already applied for a patent on the viral clone and the cloning process.
Hepatitis E, as in the case of other hepatitis virus strains, is spread through contaminated drinking water. It targets the liver, where it multiplies and destroys cells. Hepatitis viruses have caused several epidemics in India. They mostly affect adults between 20 years and 40 years. Around five million Indians are affected by hepatitis each year and about 500,000 die each year.