An over-the-counter  medication indicated to treat allergy symptoms could potentially be used to treat hepatitis C virus infection after a new study showed that it limited HCV virus activity in infected mice. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The scientists identified chlorcyclizine HCl (CCZ) as a potential inhibitor of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and sought to test its ability to inhibit HCV infection in human hepatoma cells and primary human hepatocytes. Although the mechanism of action is unknown, it is believed that CCZ targets viral entry into host cells without significant cytotoxicity.

In this study, mice were grafted with primary human hepatocytes and treated with CCZ; CZZ significantly inhibited infection of HCV genotypes 1b and 2a during the four and six weeks of treatment, respectively, with no evidence of emergent drug resistance and with similar efficacy to other commonly used antiviral therapies.

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Next steps include human trials to test the safety and efficacy of CCZ in treating various HCV genotypes. Until then, patients with HCV are advised to not take CCZ in lieu of or as part of a therapeutic regimen.

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This article originally appeared on MPR