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J Infect Dis. 1997 Oct;176(4):859-66.

Hepatitis C virus-specific cytolytic T lymphocyte and T helper cell responses in seronegative persons.

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  • 1Infectious Disease Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a common infection worldwide, and in most persons, it leads to persistent viremia and liver damage. Efforts to identify the correlates of protective immunity are hampered by this high rate of persistent infection in both infected humans and the only animal model, the chimpanzee. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from seronegative persons were stimulated with synthetic peptides that represent epitopes recognized by HCV-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) after natural infection. In addition, CD4+ proliferative responses to recombinant HCV proteins were examined in these same persons. CTL responses directed against a peptide epitope of HCV and proliferative responses in 2 HCV-seronegative persons with possible occupational exposure to HCV were found. These otherwise healthy persons were not viremic, suggesting that they may have recovered from acute HCV infection. Characterization of virus-specific immune responses in exposed but seronegative persons may provide important clues as to the nature of protective immunity in HCV.

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