, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 287-304

The hepatitis C virus persistence: how to evade the immune system?

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Abstract

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an emerging virus of medical importance. A majority of HCV infections become chronic and lead to chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. HCV usually induces robust immune responses, but it frequently escapes the immune defense to establish persistent infection. The fact that HCV exists as an evolving quasispecies plays an important role in the selection of escape mutants. Furthermore, several viral proteins interfere with cellular functions, in particular, those involved in the immune response of the host. Several HCV proteins also modulate cell signalling through interaction with different effectors involved in cell proliferation and apoptosis, or in the interferon-signalling pathway. In addition, HCV infects immune cells such as B and T cells, and thus affects their normal functions. These various strategies used by HCV to counter the immune response of the host are reviewed here. A better understanding of these mechanisms would help design new therapeutic targets.