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Front Microbiol. 2013 Jul 26;4:213. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2013.00212. eCollection 2013.

Hepatitis C virus infection and related liver disease: the quest for the best animal model.

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Inserm U1110, Université de Strasbourg Strasbourg, France.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major cause of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) making the virus the most common cause of liver failure and transplantation. HCV is estimated to chronically affect 130 million individuals and to lead to more than 350,000 deaths per year worldwide. A vaccine is currently not available. The recently developed direct acting antivirals (DAAs) have markedly increased the efficacy of the standard of care but are not efficient enough to completely cure all chronically infected patients and their toxicity limits their use in patients with advanced liver disease, co-morbidity or transplant recipients. Because of the host restriction, which is limited to humans and non-human primates, in vivo study of HCV infection has been hampered since its discovery more than 20 years ago. The chimpanzee remains the most physiological model to study the innate and adaptive immune responses, but its use is ethically difficult and is now very restricted and regulated. The development of a small animal model that allows robust HCV infection has been achieved using chimeric liver immunodeficient mice, which are therefore not suitable for studying the adaptive immune responses. Nevertheless, these models allowed to go deeply in the comprehension of virus-host interactions and to assess different therapeutic approaches. The immunocompetent mouse models that were recently established by genetic humanization have shown an interesting improvement concerning the study of the immune responses but are still limited by the absence of the complete robust life cycle of the virus. In this review, we will focus on the relevant available animal models of HCV infection and their usefulness for deciphering the HCV life cycle and virus-induced liver disease, as well as for the development and evaluation of new therapeutics. We will also discuss the perspectives on future immunocompetent mouse models and the hurdles to their development.


animal models; antivirals; hepatitis C virus; hepatocellular carcinoma; immunocompetent mouse model; liver disease

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