CD4+ T cell responses in hepatitis C virus infection.
Semmo N., Klenerman P.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a major cause of liver damage, with virus-induced end-stage disease such as liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma resulting in a high rate of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Evidence that CD4+ T cell responses to HCV play an important role in the outcome of acute infection has been shown in several studies. However, the mechanisms behind viral persistence and the failure of CD4+ T cell responses to contain virus are poorly understood. During chronic HCV infection, HCV-specific CD4+ T cell responses are relatively weak or absent whereas in resolved infection these responses are vigorous and multispecific. Persons with a T-helper type I profile, which promotes cellular effector mechanisms are thought to be more likely to experience viral clearance, but the overall role of these cells in the immunopathogenesis of chronic liver disease is not known. To define this, much more data is required on the function and specificity of virus-specific CD4+ T cells, especially in the early phases of acute disease and in the liver during chronic infection. The role and possible mechanisms of action of CD4+ T cell responses in determining the outcome of acute and chronic HCV infection will be discussed in this review.