Hepatitis B virus persistence and reactivation

Yu Shi, Min Zheng
BMJ: British Medical Journal 2020 September 1, 370: m2200
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection causes chronic hepatitis and has long term complications. Individuals ever infected with HBV are at risk of viral reactivation under certain circumstances. This review summarizes studies on HBV persistence and reactivation with a focus on the definitions and mechanisms. Emphasis is placed on the interplay between HBV replication and host immunity as this interplay determines the patterns of persistence following viral acquisition. Chronic infections exhibit as overt persistence when a defective immune response fails to control the viral replication. The HBV genome persists despite an immune response in the form of covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) and integrated DNA, rendering an occult state of viral persistence in individuals whose infection appears to have been resolved. We have described HBV reactivation that occurs because of changes in the virus or the immune system. This review aims to raise the awareness of HBV reactivation and to understand how HBV persists, and discusses the risks of HBV reactivation in a variety of clinical settings.

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