The hepatitis C virus is one of the smallest known virus cells, so small in fact that millions of them could fit onto the head of a pin, according to VeryWell.com. But have scientists finally been able to capture a photo of Hep C for the first time?
According to Canadian news site Stopru.org, an Inserm team led by Jean-Christophe Meunier, after four years of work, was able to observe Hep C under a microscope. According to his team, the reason why no one has been able to get an accurate glance at this virus is because it shields itself like a Trojan horse: the viral particle of Hep C is surrounded by fat, taken from its host.
“It looks like a simple little white sphere among other white spheres lipid in the blood,” Meunier described. “This kind of fat sandwich is made in the center of the RNA viral and nucleus of virus separated by a first monolayer of phospholipids. This structure fits perfectly with the earlier work of molecular biology who predicted that organization. These observations validate 25 years of work of the scientific community.”
Research shows the hep C virus is 30 to 60 nanometers in diameter, which usually means it cannot be seen in under a light because its size is smaller than the wavelength of light itself.
While there are treatments available for Hep C, there has not been a vaccine. But according to Meunier, all that was missing was knowledge of how the protein within the virus functions. His team confirmed that they are always available on the surface of the virus. Perhaps this might further medicinal breakthroughs.
As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hepatitis C is a liver infection that causes inflammation. Because the liver helps to digest food, store energy, and remove poisons, inflammation can cause serious damage if left untreated.
While most people become infected by sharing needles or other equipment, says the CDC, it can also be spread through blood transfusion, organ transplants, and having sexual contact with an infected partner (even though the risk is believed to be low).
If Meunier’s team is right, and they’ve actually seen the virus in the flesh (so to speak), it can be the beginning of new research and discovery around hepatitis. Here’s to hoping.