The Role of Micronutrients in the Infection and Subsequent Response to Hepatitis C Virus

Cells. 2019 Jun 17;8(6):603. doi: 10.3390/cells8060603.


Micronutrient deficiencies develop for a variety of reasons, whether geographic, socioeconomic, nutritional, or as a result of disease pathologies such as chronic viral infection. As micronutrients are essential for a strong immune response, deficiencies can significantly dampen both the innate and the adaptive arms of antiviral immunity. The innate immune response in particular is crucial to protect against hepatitis C virus (HCV), a hepatotropic virus that maintains chronic infection in up to 80% of individuals if left untreated. While many micronutrients are required for HCV replication, an overlapping group of micronutrients are also necessary to enact a potent immune response. As the liver is responsible for the storage and metabolism of many micronutrients, HCV persistence can influence the micronutrients' steady state to benefit viral persistence both directly and by weakening the antiviral response. This review will focus on common micronutrients such as zinc, iron, copper, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D and vitamin E. We will explore their role in the pathogenesis of HCV infection and in the response to antiviral therapy. While chronic hepatitis C virus infection drives deficiencies in micronutrients such as zinc, selenium, vitamin A and B12, it also stimulates copper and iron excess; these micronutrients influence antioxidant, inflammatory and immune responses to HCV.

Keywords: hepatitis C virus; innate immunity; liver; micronutrient deficiency; micronutrients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hepacivirus / physiology*
  • Hepatitis C / immunology*
  • Hepatitis C / metabolism*
  • Hepatitis C / virology
  • Humans
  • Immunity*
  • Micronutrients / deficiency
  • Micronutrients / metabolism*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Micronutrients