Immune responses during acute and chronic infection with hepatitis C virus

Clin Immunol. 2008 Aug;128(2):133-47. doi: 10.1016/j.clim.2008.03.525. Epub 2008 Jun 2.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) induces persistent infection and causes chronic liver disease in most infected patients. Vigorous HCV-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses against HCV multiple epitopes are necessary for spontaneous viral clearance during the acute phase, but the virus appears to have multiple strategies to evade these defenses. There are relatively few studies on the role of immune responses during the chronic phase of infection. CD4+ T cell responses appear to protect against liver injury and may be important to clearance during interferon and ribavirin based therapy. Classic cytotoxic T cells (CTL) may primarily damage the liver in chronic HCV, but there may be subpopulations of T cells that protect against liver inflammation. Resolution of these outstanding questions is important to the development of a prophylactic vaccine as well as improving therapeutic options for those with chronic infection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte
  • Hepacivirus* / immunology
  • Hepatitis C / complications
  • Hepatitis C / drug therapy
  • Hepatitis C / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use
  • Liver / immunology
  • Liver / pathology
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Ribavirin / therapeutic use
  • T-Cell Antigen Receptor Specificity
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / physiology


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Ribavirin