Progress in the use of RNA interference as a therapy for chronic hepatitis B virus infection

Genome Med. 2010 Apr 28;2(4):28. doi: 10.1186/gm149.


Chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) occurs in approximately 6% of the world's population and carriers of the virus are at risk for hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis. Current treatment regimens, which include interferon-alpha and nucleoside/nucleotide analogs, are only partially effective and new treatment methods remain an important objective. Harnessing the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway to achieve post-transcriptional silencing of rogue genetic elements is an exciting avenue for development of novel therapeutic strategies. The specific and potent suppression of HBV gene expression and replication is an attractive option as a novel and effective approach for the treatment of chronic HBV infection. However, despite significant and rapid progress, existing RNAi technologies require further refinement before clinical applications can be realized. Here, we review current efforts aimed at improving the efficiency of anti-HBV RNAi-based delivery systems, at limiting the toxicities associated with RNAi modalities and at preventing reactivation of viral replication. We discuss the progress towards clinical implementation of anti-HBV RNAi therapies.