Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections remain major health problems worldwide, with 400-500 million chronically infected people worldwide. Chronic infection results in liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, the second leading cause of cancer death. Current treatments for HBV limit viral replication without efficiently curing infection. HCV treatment has markedly progressed with the licensing of direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) for HCV cure, yet limited access for the majority of patients is a major challenge. Preventative and curative treatment strategies, aimed at novel targets, are needed for both viruses. Viral entry represents one such target, although detailed knowledge of the entry mechanisms is a prerequisite. For HBV, the recent discovery of the NTCP cell entry factor enabled the establishment of an HBV cell culture model and showed that cyclosporin A and Myrcludex B are NTCP-targeting entry inhibitors. Advances in the understanding of HCV entry revealed it to be a complex process involving many factors, offering several antiviral targets. These include viral envelope proteins E1 and E2, virion-associated lipoprotein ApoE, and cellular factors CD81, SRBI, EGFR, claudin-1, occludin, and the cholesterol transporter NPC1L1. Small molecules targeting SR-BI, EGFR, and NPC1L1 have entered clinical trials, whereas other viral- and host-targeted small molecules, peptides, and antibodies show promise in preclinical models. This review summarizes the current understanding of HBV and HCV entry and describes novel antiviral targets and compounds in different stages of clinical development. Overall, proof-of-concept studies indicate that entry inhibitors are a promising class of antivirals to prevent and treat HBV and HCV infections.
Keywords: entry inhibitors; hepatitis viruses; novel antiviral targets; viral entry; virus−host interactions.