Discovery of several new members of the flavivirus family in various different species led to a restructuring of the Hepacivirus genus. Among these was a virus initially discovered in dogs and therefore called canine Hepacivirus, which was renamed non-primate Hepacivirus, then equine Hepacivirus. This virus, now officially called ‘Hepacivirus A’, is the closest relative of human hepatitis C virus (Hepacivirus C). Like hepatitis C virus, it infects the liver, in horses. However, despite its similarity, we should not assume that transmission of the equine virus is the same as for its human counterpart, nor that it causes the same extent of disease.
Our research and its impact
A collaboration between One Virology scientists in the School of Life Sciences and School of Veterinary Medicine and Science is drawing on existing expertise on human hepatitis C to investigate Hepacivirus A in horses. The Horserace Betting Levy Board funded a pilot project, and the Horse Trust is currently funding further work. We are investigating the potential impact of infection with the virus and developing diagnostic tests.