The Berlin Wall fell, Taylor Swift was born, and a DeLorean took us from nostalgia in 1955 to the possibilities of 2015. That very same year, scientists looked back in time and pressed forward. Their challenge? To better understand a soon-to-be-named virus, where it came from and search for ways to treat it.
While the "how to treat it" question has been pretty much answered, others about the origins and the historical spread of the virus remain.
Putting the C next to A and B
The virus was relegated to non-A, non-B hepatitis in the 70s when a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that some cases of hepatitis were neither hepatitis A nor hepatitis B.1 While the virus was contracted through blood and could damage the liver, it acted very differently – people rarely exhibited any symptoms at its onset.2
In 1989, biotechnology scientists who partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified and officially named the virus hepatitis C.
With the new moniker, scientists put the virus on notice. They quickly developed screenings to detect it in blood supplies, estimated its prevalence, and identified its molecular structure and genetic makeup so that specific treatments could be developed.