Not all viruses are created equal. In liver transplant patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, only viruses that can dodge the immune response invade the new liver, according to a study published on August 16 in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Chronic HCV infection is the leading indication for liver transplantation in the US. But installing a new liver does not cure disease; in fact, HCV infects the transplanted liver in nearly all patients.
However, only a subset of the viruses present prior to transplantation show up in the new organ, according to a study lead by Francoise Stoll-Keller and Thomas Baumert at the University of Strasbourg in France. Compared to many of their pre-transplant brethren, the viruses that invaded the new organ infected liver cells more readily and were impervious to the antibodies that normally block infection.
In most patients, the post-transplant viruses had mutations in one region of the surface protein the virus uses to infect cells. Blocking this region may thus provide a new way to prevent reinfection after liver transplant.
- S. Fafi-Kremer, I. Fofana, E. Soulier, P. Carolla, P. Meuleman, G. Leroux-Roels, A. H. Patel, F.-L. Cosset, P. Pessaux, M. Doffoel, P. Wolf, F. Stoll-Keller, T. F. Baumert. Viral entry and escape from antibody-mediated neutralization influence hepatitis C virus reinfection in liver transplantation. Journal of Experimental Medicine, 2010; DOI: 10.1084/jem.20090766
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