Researchers at the University of Leeds have found that combination therapies similar to those used for HIV patients may be the best way of treating hepatitis C virus (HCV).
A study of a protein called p7, has shown that differences in the genetic coding of the protein between virus strains - known as genotypes - alter the sensitivity of the virus to drugs that block its function.
The p7 protein assists the spread of HCV around the body and is a promising target for new drug treatments for the virus.
This role of the protein was discovered in 2003 by Dr Steve Griffin with Professors Mark Harris and Dave Rowlands of the University's Faculty of Biological Sciences.
And their study has shown that inhibiting p7 with drugs can prevent the spread of HCV.
"One of the challenges in finding treatments for viruses is their ability to constantly change their genetic makeup. Our research shows there can't be a one-size-fits-all approach to treating HCV with p7 inhibitors in the future. We believe combination treatments will work much more efficiently, as they take into account the variability of the p7 protein," Harris said.
The researchers examined the response of HCV to a panel of compounds including the well-known anti-viral drug, rimantadine, which targets a similar protein in the flu virus.
They found that the drug's effectiveness was altered depending on the genetic makeup of the p7 protein.
Dr Griffin said: "We 'borrowed' rimantadine to test its effects because p7 behaves similarly to a protein found in the flu virus. Although rimantadine works well in the laboratory, we now need to develop new drugs specifically targeted against p7 that we can take forward for future therapies."