Thursday, December 08, 2022

I was first here! This is how hepatitis C inhibits hepatitis E

Replication Of Hepatitis C Virus (Hcv) And Hepatitis E Virus (Hev) In Human Liver Cells.

image: Replication of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis E virus (HEV) in human liver cells. HCV produces red signal, HEV produces green signal upon successful multiplication.
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Credit: © Department of Molecular and Medical Virology

It is well known that co-infections with hepatitis viruses do exist. “However, the co-infection of hepatitis C and E has not yet been systematically researched,” says Thomas Burkard. “Though there is always the possibility that a simultaneous infection with two viruses may be particularly dangerous.”

A single protein suppresses infection

To find out more about simultaneous infection with the hepatitis C (HCV) and hepatitis E virus (HEV), the researchers in the first step infected liver cells in cell culture with both pathogens. HCV has been shown to suppress hepatitis E infection. The team wanted to find out why. “HCV is made up of ten proteins,” explains Thomas Burkard. “By producing individuals in excess, we were able to study its effect.” This allowed the researchers to find that a single viral protein – called NS3 / 4A – successfully suppressed the replication of hepatitis E viruses in cell culture. “It seemed like co-infection with both viruses was only possible to a very limited extent,” says Thomas Burkard.

However, experiments in animal models showed a different pattern: genetically modified mice that have a human liver can be infected with both viruses. However, the infections progressed in different ways, depending on which one the mice were first exposed to. When HEV was first present, HCV could not successfully infect the animals. When HCV was first present, the course of infection with HEV was often delayed. “Here, HCV has not proven to be as dominant as in cell culture,” says Thomas Burkard. In-depth analyzes of the liver cells should now shed light on the underlying causes: “Maybe we will only find islets that are infected with one or the other virus,” the researcher speculates. “In any case, it is clear that the two viruses affect each other.”

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