Evolutionary biology of human hepatitis viruses

J Hepatol. 2019 Mar;70(3):501-520. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2018.11.010. Epub 2018 Nov 23.


Hepatitis viruses are major threats to human health. During the last decade, highly diverse viruses related to human hepatitis viruses were found in animals other than primates. Herein, we describe both surprising conservation and striking differences of the unique biological properties and infection patterns of human hepatitis viruses and their animal homologues, including transmission routes, liver tropism, oncogenesis, chronicity, pathogenesis and envelopment. We discuss the potential for translation of newly discovered hepatitis viruses into preclinical animal models for drug testing, studies on pathogenesis and vaccine development. Finally, we re-evaluate the evolutionary origins of human hepatitis viruses and discuss the past and present zoonotic potential of their animal homologues.

Keywords: Evolution; Hepatitis; Homologues; Virus; Zoonotic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Drug Development / methods*
  • Hepatitis Viruses* / classification
  • Hepatitis Viruses* / pathogenicity
  • Hepatitis Viruses* / physiology
  • Hepatitis, Animal / virology
  • Hepatitis, Viral, Human* / drug therapy
  • Hepatitis, Viral, Human* / physiopathology
  • Hepatitis, Viral, Human* / virology
  • Humans
  • Models, Animal
  • Viral Hepatitis Vaccines / pharmacology*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Viral Hepatitis Vaccines