Innate and Adaptive Immune Responses in Chronic HCV Infection.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) remains a public health problem of global importance, even in the era of potent directly-acting antiviral drugs. In this chapter, I discuss immune responses to acute and chronic HCV infection. The outcome of HCV infection is influenced by viral strategies that limit or delay the initiation of innate antiviral responses. This delay may enable HCV to establish widespread infection long before the host mounts effective T and B cell responses. HCV's genetic agility, resulting from its high rate of replication and its error prone replication mechanism, enables it to evade immune recognition. Adaptive immune responses fail to keep up with changing viral epitopes. Neutralizing antibody epitopes may be hidden by decoy structures, glycans, and lipoproteins. T cell responses fail due to changing epitope sequences and due to exhaustion, a phenomenon that may have evolved to limit immune-mediated pathology. Despite these difficulties, innate and adaptive immune mechanisms do impact HCV replication. Immune-mediated clearance of infection is possible, occurring in 20-50% of people who contract the disease. New developments raise hopes for effective immunological interventions to prevent or treat HCV infection.