Greg Jefferys Hepatitis C blog deals with all the issues associated with hepatitis C
There are many, many different forms of viruses living on the planet Earth. A large number have no damaging effects on humans and many billions live inside our bodies and do no harm at all. However, there are certain viruses that are deadly to humans. Amongst these dangerous viruses are the Hepatitis C virus and the COVID 19 virus.
In 2014 I almost died because of a Hepatitis C viral infection that was destroying my liver. Since 2014, along with about 100 million other people, I have been engaged in a global battle with the Hepatitis C virus.
Until recently not many other people were particularly interested in viruses but with the arrival of the COVID 19 virus the world’s attention has focused on the world of viruses like never before.
Since the Hepatitis C virus was discovered back in 1989 it has killed more than 30 million humans. At the current point in time, 2020, about 100 million people are infected with Hepatitis C< and a little less than one million people will die from Hepatitis C in the next 12 months. And that is not even mentioning the tens of millions of people who live in permanent sickness and suffering because of the effects the Hepatitis C virus has had on their liver. The arrival of the COVID 19 virus on the world stage has shone the light on the world's media on the world of viruses and as a result, everyone is talking about this new, deadly virus: this new coronavirus. At the time of writing, 10th April 2020, the confirmed number of infections for COVID 19 is approaching 2 million and the death rate is approaching 100,000. By this year’s end, the number of deaths caused by COVID 19 might even reach the number of deaths that will be caused by the Hepatitis C virus in the same 12 month period.
The COVID 19 virus and the Hepatitis C virus are similar and different, just as a lion and a tiger are similar and different.
Lions and tigers are both big cats that look very different and live in very different environments, but both have very long sharp teeth, strong jaws and are dangerous to humans.
COVID 19 and Hep C are both viruses that are very dangerous to humans but they live and “feed” and “breed” in different environments, different parts of the human body.
The Hepatitis C virus “lives” in the human liver and uses our liver cells to replicate itself. The COVID 19 virus lives in the tissues of our throat and lungs and uses the cells there to replicate itself.
Scientists do not use the word “reproduce” for viruses, they use the word “replicate”, but the effect is the same. The virus makes more of itself, it reproduces itself, very, very quickly. Possibly one Hepatitis C virion (a virion is a complete Hep C virus particle) could potentially produce an estimated 1,000,000,000,000 new virions in one day.
The COVID 19 virus also replicates very quickly and one infected lung cell could produce hundreds or even thousands of new COVID 19 virions.
When a tiger or a lion eats a human it eats us from the outside in. It uses its teeth to bite off chunks of flesh and swallows them.
Once inside the tiger our cellular material is broken down by the tiger’s digestive system and is altered so it can be incorporated into the tiger’s own body, into its own cellular and genetic material.
When a virus eats a human it eats us from the inside. It invades our cells and uses our cell’s genetic material to replicate itself, to make exact copies of itself. A virus such as Hepatitis C or COVID 19 may make hundreds or thousands of copies of itself inside one infected liver cell or lung cell. These new virus particles then tear their way out of the infected cell and move off to find new host cells to invade and “digest”.
Think of the movie “Alien” but with a thousand little aliens bursting out of that guy’s chest rather than one big nasty alien. The thousands of little aliens jump out of the host and leap onto the other people into the room and repeat the process.
So to put how a virus reproduces in a simple form, viral replication involves a series of steps:
Over a 24 hour period a virus can potentially create billions of replications of itself.
The symptoms of viral diseases like Hepatitis C and COVID 19 are the result of the damage caused by the virus destroying the liver or lung cells and/or the body’s immune system attacking the infected cells and causing inflammation in the organ.
It’s a bit like the liver or the lungs become a battlefield with the body’s immune system battling the virus but in this battle there is a lot of collateral damage and the organ’s functions may be severely impaired.
Compare it to a city where two warring parties are fighting it out with all the weapons they have.
It is not long before the city ceases to function.
COVID 19 starts in the lungs and there causes havoc with the immune system that can lead to long-term lung damage or death.
Hepatitis C attacks the liver where the same battle format plays out but over a longer period of time. Where COVID 19 can kill in weeks the Hepatitis C virus may take years or decades to destroy the liver.
It is interesting that most of the damage in the lungs caused by COVID-19 is caused by the immune system carrying out a scorched earth defence to try to stop the virus from spreading. Millions of cells from the immune system invade the infected lung tissue and cause massive amounts of damage in the process of trying to clean out the virus and infected cells.
This cleaning process causes lesions that range in size from a grape to the size of a grapefruit. The challenge for health care workers treating patients is to keep the patient’s blood oxygenated while the lung repairs itself.
Hepatitis C causes damage to the liver mainly in the form of scarring or fibrosis.
Hepatitis C infection results in the death of liver cells. The death of liver cells triggers the dispatching of inflammatory cells to the affected area. Inflammation leads to the enlargement of the liver (hepatomegaly) in over 60% of people infected with hepatitis C and can cause the sheath surrounding the liver to stretch, which may be the cause of pain in the liver area.
Inflammation begins the processes that lead to fibrosis. Fibrosis is not a disease but is the generation of scar tissue in the liver caused by the body’s response to liver damage.
So, we see that these two deadly viruses, Hepatitis C and COVID 19, are similar and different.
Both Hepatitis C and COVID 19 invade our cells and use our own genetic material to replicate themselves and in the process destroy our cells and damage the organ they are invading.
The COVID 19 virus invades our lungs and throat and the Hepatitis C invades our liver.
With both viruses, if a patient has a healthy immune system the patient’s own immune system may defeat the invading virus. In the case of COVID 19 about 80% of people infected by the virus will be able to defeat it with their own immune system.
In the case of Hepatitis C only about 25% of people will be able to defeat the virus with their own immune system.
If the virus is not defeated by the body’s immune system then antiviral drugs and/or other treatments will be needed.
In the case of Hepatitis C there are now a range of effective drug treatments the give better than a 98% chance of a cure. In the case of COVID 19 it is likely that an effective direct-acting antiviral drug will be found within 12 months or less.
In the meantime, whether you are concerned about Hepatitis C or COVID 19, the best thing you can do is to maintain a healthy lifestyle through good diet and exercise. Having a healthy body produces a strong immune system and your own immune system is the first line of defence against an invading viral attack.