The fight against the hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been slow due to the lack of in vivo systems in which to study it. Now, a paper in the July 2005 issue of Nature Medicine reports on the development of the first system that supports complete replication of HCV, leading to the production of viruses infectious to both cultured cells and monkeys. This work should help the progress towards finding alternative drug therapies for HCV.
An estimated 170 million people worldwide are chronically infected with HCV, and a further three to four million are newly infected each year. Of every hundred persons infected, around 75% will develop long-term infection and chronic liver disease.
Although previous recent studies had shown that viral RNA can be replicated in cultured cells, replication did not lead to the formation of infectious viral particles. In this new work however, Takaji Wakita and colleagues show that an HCV genome cloned from a patient with fulminant hepatitis replicates efficiently and supports the production of viral particles in a human liver tumor cell line (Huh7). The produced virus is infectious for Huh7 cells, but infectivity can be neutralized by antibodies against CD81 - HCV's putative receptor - and by antibodies from chronically infected patients. Moreover, the team also showed that the cell culture-generated HCV is infectious to chimpanzee.
This system provides a sorely needed tool for studying the viral life cycle and for the development of novel anti-viral strategies.
Takaji Wakita (Tokyo Metropolitan Institute for Neuroscience, Fuchu, Japan)
Tel: +81 423 25 3881, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ralf Bartenschlager (University of Heidelberg, Germany)
T. Jake Liang (NIDDK, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA)
Also published online(C) Nature Medicine press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza