London: To gain a greater understanding of Hepatitis C, a leading research project in the UK has recruited 10,000 paitents infected by the virus for its study.
HCV Research UK -- a consortium of leading UK clinicians and researchers backed by the Medical Research Foundation and officially launched in 2013 at the University of Glasgow -? has recruited the patients ahead of its target date of December 31.
"This project was founded out of a desire to set up a resource that would provide opportunities for the research community to have ready access to data and samples to tackle the problems we face with HCV infection in the UK.
"Research that studies both how the virus causes disease and responds to treatment will ultimately help to guide clinicians in their care of patients and the options they will be able to offer," said John McLauchlan, Associate Director of the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research.
The patients are taking part in a cohort study collecting clinical data and samples, which provide researchers with vital information about the longer-term impact of the disease.
Since enrolment of the first patient in 2012, the network of clinical centres involved in recruiting patients into HCV Research UK has grown from 18 sites to 60.
These sites are located throughout Scotland, England and Wales.
Patients are recruited at routine hospital visits where their clinical data is entered into a centralised database.
The research carried out by STOP-HCV will be to the benefit not only of patients, but also to the NHS, as the drugs used to cure HCV are expensive and not always successful.
Since the launch of the programme, HCV Research UK has received multiple requests to use the data and blood samples for research purposes.
At present, HCV Research UK is working with NHS England on its Expanded Access Programme, which allows infected patients with life-threatening liver disease access to new therapies that are not yet approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Samples are also being taken to monitor for any signs of resistance of the virus to the drugs.
McLauchlan added: "We are at an exciting time with new therapies that can cure infection more quickly than previous treatments and with fewer side-effects."