Immunology Section, Liver Diseases Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, US National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, Maryland, USA. email@example.com
Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections account for 57% of cases of liver cirrhosis and 78% of cases of primary liver cancer worldwide and cause a million deaths per year. Although HBV and HCV differ in their genome structures, replication strategies and life cycles, they have common features, including their noncytopathic nature and their capacity to induce chronic liver disease, which is thought to be immune mediated. However, the rate of disease progression from chronic hepatitis to cirrhosis varies greatly among infected individuals, and the factors that regulate it are largely unknown. This review summarizes our current understanding of the roles of antigen-specific and nonspecific immune cells in the pathogenesis of chronic hepatitis B and C and discusses recent findings that identify natural killer cells as regulators of T cell function and liver inflammation.