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Immunopathogenesis of hepatitis C virus infection.

Freeman AJ, Marinos G, Ffrench RA, Lloyd AR

  • Journal Immunology and cell biology

  • Published 12 Jun 2002

  • Volume 79

  • ISSUE 6

  • Pagination 515-36

  • DOI 10.1046/j.1440-1711.2001.01036.x


Hepatitis C virus, a recently identified member of the family Flaviviridae, is an important cause of chronic viral hepatitis and cirrhosis. There are similarities in the nature of the immune response to this pathogen with immunity in other flavivirus and hepatotropic virus infections, such as hepatitis B. However, the high rate of viral persistence after primary hepatitis C infection, and the observation that neutralizing antibodies are not protective, would suggest that there are a number of important differences between hepatitis C, other flaviviruses, and hepatitis B. The phenomenon of quasispecies evolution and other viral factors have been proposed to contribute to immune evasion by hepatitis C virus. In the face of established persistent infection, virus-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes may exert some control over viral replication. However, these same effectors may also be responsible for the progressive liver damage characteristic of chronic hepatitis C infection. The nature of protective immunity, including the role of innate immune responses early after hepatitis C exposure, remains to be defined.