Liver specialists, virologists and immunologists from around the world met at the 3rd International Workshop on a Hepatitis B Cure in Toronto last week to share their advances and brainstorm solutions to the challenges they face as they hunt for a cure for the liver infection that affects 240 million worldwide.

Eradicating hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is no easy task. HBV is a far more complicated and resilient virus than hepatitis C, and scientists predict a cure will require a careful orchestration of drugs and immune-enhancing treatments that could:

  • Eliminate HBV antigens—especially the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). This viral protein appears able to “exhaust” or disable the immune system’s T cells so they’re unable to effectively fight the infection.
  • Find a vulnerability in the HBV replication cycle that can be exploited to keep the virus from entering liver cells and inserting its genetic material (cccDNA) required for viral reproduction.
  • Enhance or “wake up” the exhausted T cells, after HBsAg is reduced or eliminated, so the immune system can successfully eradicate the HBV-infected liver cells.

As researchers learn more about why HBV is so successful at evading the immune system and hijacking liver cells for viral production, they are also realizing how much they don’t know and what tools they lack to identify if and when they find successful treatment strategies. Here are some of the challenges the researchers addressed during the day-long brainstorming session...

Click here to read more about the challenges facing HBV researchers.  

This article originally appeared in the Hepatitis B Foundation’s Hep B Blog; permission to reprint granted.