The Flaviviridae family comprises the genus Flavivirus, Hepacivirus and Pestivirus. These viruses are responsible for considerable human and animal disease and mortality worldwide. Flaviviruses cause a range of acute febrile illnesses along with encephalitic or haemorrhagic diseases. Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the most important hepacivirus human disease and remains a global health threat with nearly 200 million carriers worldwide. Current treatment consists in the use of peginterferon alfa (pegIFN) plus ribavirin (RBV) for 24 to 72 weeks, depending on HCV genotype, baseline viral load and the achievement of rapid virological response during therapy. However, current hepatitis C therapy fails to eradicate HCV in nearly half of treated patients and is hampered by relatively serious adverse events. No effective antiviral therapy is currently available for the treatment of flaviviruses or pestiviruses. Following the relative success of antiretroviral therapy against HIV infection, rapid progresses have been made in the development of specifically targeted antiviral therapies against HCV (STAT-C) and other Flaviviridae agents. Drug discovery for HCV is currently particularly exciting, since inhibitors of the HCV serine protease and the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase have recently entered the late stages of clinical development.
Keywords: Hepatitis C, antiviral therapy, STAT-C, protease inhibitors, polymerase inhibitors, Flavivirus, Flaviviridae