Immunobiology and pathogenesis of viral hepatitis

Annu Rev Pathol. 2006;1:23-61. doi: 10.1146/annurev.pathol.1.110304.100230.


Among the many viruses that are known to infect the human liver, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) are unique because of their prodigious capacity to cause persistent infection, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. HBV and HCV are noncytopathic viruses and, thus, immunologically mediated events play an important role in the pathogenesis and outcome of these infections. The adaptive immune response mediates virtually all of the liver disease associated with viral hepatitis. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that antigen-nonspecific inflammatory cells exacerbate cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL)-induced immunopathology and that platelets enhance the accumulation of CTLs in the liver. Chronic hepatitis is characterized by an inefficient T cell response unable to completely clear HBV or HCV from the liver, which consequently sustains continuous cycles of low-level cell destruction. Over long periods of time, recurrent immune-mediated liver damage contributes to the development of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hepatitis, Viral, Human / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology*