Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Medicine, Gastrointestinal Unit, Boston, Massachusetts.
Development of robust cell culture models for hepatitis C viral infection has greatly increased our understanding of this virus and its life cycle. This knowledge has led to the development of many drugs that target specific elements of viral replication, including viral proteins and host factors required for replication. The NS3/4A serine protease inhibitors were the first of these to be used in the clinic, and reagents that target other elements of the viral lifecycle are in advanced stages of clinical development. These include new NS3/4A protease inhibitors, NS5B RNA-dependent RNA polymerase inhibitors, NS5A inhibitors, and host-directed antivirals, such as cyclophilin inhibitors. Alternative interferons with possibly improved tolerability, specifically interferon-λ1 (interleukin-29), are also under development. These new reagents against hepatitis C virus should lead to highly effective, well-tolerated, and likely interferon-sparing therapies in the next several years.