Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the etiological agent of chronic hepatitis C and a major cause of liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Only a minority of infected individuals can clear the virus spontaneously. The knowledge of the determinants of virus clearance would allow the development of effective methods preventing its further spread and optimizing treatment regimens. Viral factors associated with spontaneous virus clearance in the acute phase of infection, such as HCV genotype, virus heterogeneity, and the impact of viral proteins on the immune system have been characterized. Likewise, host genetic markers, such as the interleukin genotypes, HLA alleles, and factors affecting the T lymphocyte response appear to play an important role. Studies have revealed that natural clearance of HCV infection in the chronic phase is rare and its mechanisms are not well understood. In this review, we present the state-of-the art knowledge on the viral and host factors affecting the spontaneous elimination of HCV infection.
Keywords: Genetic markers; HCV genetic heterogeneity; Hepatitis C virus; Host-related factors; Liver cirrhosis; Viral factors.