Laboratory of Virology and Infectious Disease, Center for Study of Hepatitis C, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York, USA.
More than two decades of intense research has provided a detailed understanding of hepatitis C virus (HCV), which chronically infects 2% of the world's population. This effort has paved the way for the development of antiviral compounds to spare patients from life-threatening liver disease. An exciting new era in HCV therapy dawned with the recent approval of two viral protease inhibitors, used in combination with pegylated interferon-α and ribavirin; however, this is just the beginning. Multiple classes of antivirals with distinct targets promise highly efficient combinations, and interferon-free regimens with short treatment duration and fewer side effects are the future of HCV therapy. Ongoing and future trials will determine the best antiviral combinations and whether the current seemingly rich pipeline is sufficient for successful treatment of all patients in the face of major challenges, such as HCV diversity, viral resistance, the influence of host genetics, advanced liver disease and other co-morbidities.