Hepatitis C virus (HepC) infects humans and it does not replicate efficiently in small animal models. This virus can lay undetected for years in the majority of infected individuals, leading to progressive liver damage. Until recently, scientists struggled to propagate HepC from patient blood, and this held back detailed studies of virus transmission and antiviral immunity.
We discovered that like Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), HepC can hitch a ride on blood immune cells (lymphocytes) and -without infecting them- it can be delivered to its preferred target cell, the liver hepatocyte.
The process of a virus using a cell as a “vehicle” for its transmission is called “trans-infection”.
There are currently no therapeutic interventions that target specifically this mode of transmission.
Our team is working to identify the molecular determinants of trans-infection.
We are investigating the impact of virus-immune cell interactions, both on virus transmission and on immune cell function.