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Biol Chem. 2008 May;389(5):457-67.

Adaptive immune responses to hepatitis C virus: from viral immunobiology to a vaccine.

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  • 1Department of Medicine II, University Hospital Freiburg, D-79106 Freiburg, Germany.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes chronic infection in approximately two-thirds of cases, leading to chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, liver disease, liver failure, and hepatocellular carcinoma in a substantial proportion of the 170 million HCV-infected individuals worldwide. It is generally accepted that the cellular immune response plays the most important role in determining the outcome of HCV infection. First, vigorous, multispecific and sustained CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses are associated with viral clearance. Second, depletion studies in chimpanzees, the only other host of HCV besides humans, have shown that both CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells are required for virus elimination. Third, the host's human leukocyte antigen alleles, which restrict the repertoire of CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses, influence the outcome of infection. Of note, protective immunity has been demonstrated in population-based studies, as well as in experimentally infected chimpanzees. Thus, a detailed understanding of the mechanisms contributing to the failure of the antiviral immune response should allow successful development of prophylactic and therapeutic vaccination strategies.

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